Saturday 24 March 2018

Put country first, Ahern urges backbenchers

Aine Kerr, Elaine Keogh and Conor Kane

JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern last night told disgruntled Fianna Fail backbenchers and independents they will have to decide between triggering an election over local issues or working in the national interest.

TDs such as Fianna Fail's Mattie McGrath and independent TD Noel Grealish -- who have threatened to withdraw support for the Government -- were elected to put the country first, Mr Ahern said.

"If people have an issue they have to make a decision: Will they cause an election? Will they pull down a Government? Will they create political instability in the country because of one particular issue?" Mr Ahern asked.

"What we need, if we are to get out of our (economic) difficulty, is political stability."

His challenge to backbenchers comes at a time when the Government's Dail majority is under increasing strain. Currently, the Fianna Fail-led Coalition has 84 seats to the opposition's 78.

Mr Ahern said there was nobody in Leinster House who did not accept the country was in a difficult position. TDs must now look at the "wider scheme of things" -- outside of their individual constituencies.

The Government was given a mandate until 2012 and would continue to govern "as long as we are let", he said.

The minister's firm stance on rebel backbenchers was echoed by Environment Minister John Gormley, who said politicians must put the national interest first. All TDs had to "knuckle down and do our bit", Mr Gormley said.

Fianna Fail has now seen four TDs resign the parliamentary whip over local issues but can still be relied on to vote with the Government.

But the Green Party was "solid, solid as rocks", Mr Gormley claimed.

"I can't overly concern myself with the activities of backbenchers in other parties. In a time of difficulty, the most important thing is you keep your shape and you have steel in your spine and go through with it," he said.

"We have a job of work to do. This is a time for cool heads, for steel in their spine. People need to concentrate on their jobs and get on with it. Anything else, for me, is a distraction."

Irish Independent

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