Saturday 7 December 2019

Patience on both sides is wearing thin

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

Daniel McConnell

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn's admission that the Coalition has given up acting like a "national government" casts a serious cloud over the Fine Gael and Labour partnership.

The latest spat between Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Environment Minister Phil Hogan reflects a dramatic worsening of relationships in the once rock-solid Coalition.

There is no doubt that some of the Labour anger over water charges is being driven by their poor standing in opinion polls.

Much to his own and his party's cost, Mr Gilmore and Labour have had to stand over some harsh cuts, often breaking pre-election promises.

The issue of water charges is another issue that Labour is hyper- sensitive to after Mr Gilmore publicly opposed their introduction as recently as 2010.

There was considerable anger within the Labour Party last week when Fine Gael leaked that average families would pay €248 a year before any agreement had been reached.

From Fine Gael's side, patience with Labour histrionics is wearing thin. Many within the party, including some ministers, feel Labour is trying to drag this out until after the elections on May 23.

With many key ministers and advisers away this week, the battle will commence in earnest ahead of next Tuesday's Economic Management Council meeting, which will gather ahead of the full Cabinet meeting the following day.

Against the backdrop of deteriorating relationships at the heart of Government, and in the midst of an election campaign, there is no guarantee of a speedy solution.

Irish Independent

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