Voting pact with Fine Gael is 'advisable' for Labour, admits Kelly
Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly has said he expects some form of voting pact with Fine Gael at the next election.
He also delivered a scathing attack on Sinn Féin, accusing them of being "a North-led party" and not fit for government in the Republic.
Mr Kelly said this comment was not "partitionist", arguing that Sinn Féin was guilty of advocating one thing for the Republic and doing the opposite in the North.
The Environment Minister, who is also the party's director of elections, confirmed the view of leader Joan Burton that Labour will stand as a separate party - with a separate message for voters. But he said some of election co-operation with Fine Gael was on the cards.
"I think, coming closer to the election, certainly. I mean, after saving the country and soldiering through what we've done, some form of arrangement would be advisable," he told the Irish Independent.
Speaking ahead of the party members' conference, which opens in Killarney tomorrow, Mr Kelly insisted that Labour would stage a popular revival and be part of the next government. He said he did take note of the party's opinion poll rankings but argued that national surveys do not take account of "quality local Labour TDs" who will get a strong vote next time.
"I believe the election will take place in April 2016 - and the whole world will have changed between now and then. The whole world will change in Irish politics," Mr Kelly said.
"The people will have to focus on what they want at the next election. Do they want stability or do they want chaos? We are the party of stability," he added.
Mr Kelly acknowledges "a very collegiate relationship with Fine Gael" but insists Labour played a vital role defending low-paid workers, and ensuring core welfare payments were not cut over the past four years.
"This Government needed the Labour Party. I wouldn't have liked to see a single-party government over the past four years," he said.
Turning to Sinn Féin, he said he did not believe they were a left-wing party. "They are a popular movement with an authoritarian style," he said.
Mr Kelly said Sinn Féin policies as implemented in the North's power-sharing administration were the "absolute opposite of what they advocate in the Republic".
He said water charges were levied as part of the North's local taxes, water meters were still being installed in new homes, and cuts in a range of public services were going ahead across the North.
"You've got a party aspiring to electoral success in the south which effectively has a Northern command. That would be a concern for many people on many levels," Mr Kelly insisted.
He rejected suggestions that this view was "partitionist".
"Sinn Féin are the most partitionist party I have ever seen. They are doing the direct opposite in the North to what they advocate in the south - on every level," he said.
Mr Kelly said Labour had always been the party of work which tried to make welfare available to the vulnerable who were unable to work. He said their ministers in government would be to the forefront in the coming year ensuring jobs were created.
John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015
The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.
Guide To Politics
- And they're off: the great election race begins but, as to where it ends, sadly nobody knows
- The key issues - Remember tax reform is not illegal, Enda
- It's like a talent show - you have to make the audience want you
- Could our interrupted revolution lie in the humanising of our politicians?
- 'It's awful losing your seat, it's a very public humiliation...'
- Too early to rule out FG/SF Coalition
- Shadowy back room boys and girls with the ear of ministers
- Enda and Joan's shaky house of cabinet cards
- Despite Enda's stated preference Easter 2016 not yet definite
- As they hatch their plans, what might be the hopes and ambitions of our party schemers?
- Battle of the leaders to be key deciding factor in election race
- Spectral scenarios or sweet dreams
- When the fuss is over who will be the winner?
The Gender Gap
The Generation Game