Doubts about Coalition deal
Opposition is emerging from some Labour and FG TDs, Labour councillors to the prospect of a FG-Labour Coalition. Dublin MEP Proinsias de Rossa has said the party ‘should be prepared to go into Opposition’ if FG refuses to implement elements of Labour’s “Social Democratic Programme”. Former Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Energy and Natural Resources Spokesman Tommy Broughan TD (Dublin Northeast) has warned the party would be better off going into Opposition:
“Putting the country first may well mean we would be better in opposition, by far….People feel it is going to be hard to drive the government and that, therefore, the people we represent might be better protected by leading the opposition.
“I think there is a strong view along those lines.”
Broughan is the first high-profile TD to publicly oppose a Coalition, though Labour Youth President Colm Lawless Councillor Cian O’Callaghan, Blanchardstown Councillor Patrick Nulty and the UNITE union have also come out against:
“”I’ve been talking to Labour party members across the country, grassroots members, councillors, and I’m also aware that a number of TDs in the party have some strong reservations about the potential for a Fine Gael-led government,” the Howth/Malahide councillor said.
“You can be absolutely certain that you’re going to see a very strong, vigorous and healthy debate on Sunday and we’ll wait to see what the outcome is.” (Cian O’Callaghan)
“I fear that Labour’s influence will be minuscule and that we are about to allow Fine Gael a free reign on introducing harsh austerity measures which will hit ordinary people hardest..I fear that Labour’s influence will be minuscule and that we are about to allow Fine Gael a free reign on introducing harsh austerity measures which will hit ordinary people hardest,” said the Trinity College Dublin student.
“Fine Gael do not rely on Labour to remain in office and this is a serious concern…In the case of not holding a balance of power it is wise for us to remain in opposition.”
Mr O’Callaghan said four TDs had personally expressed their opposition to him about a prospective coalition.
“Unite has campaigned during this general election for a Labour-led left government…We were promoting that our members would vote for the Labour Party; we wanted Eamon Gilmore as taoiseach.” (Jimmy Kelly, UNITE Regional Secretary)
“If a programme for government is put to Labour members, I believe we should reject it and instead put the country first and push for . . . transformation in our political system” (Councillor Patrick Nulty)
“Meanwhile, Labour Party MEP Proinsias De Rossa has said his party should be prepared to go into Opposition.
In a statement, Mr De Rossa said that Labour should defend the interests of its core constituency – low and middle-income earners – by having key elements of its social democratic policies implemented.
He said that if Fine Gael did not accept these requirements, Labour should not enter a Coalition.” (RTE)
Meanwhile, FG’s Immigration and Integration Spokesperson Lucinda Creighton has called for the party to sound out Independent TDs as her supporters were rejecting Labour, “higher taxes” and “going soft on cuts”:
“People voting for me and voting for my colleagues were coming from Fianna Fáil and PD backgrounds. They were voting against Labour and against higher taxes and going soft on cuts. We will be punished if we were to say we would not try to see if there were other viable alternatives”
Creighton’s stance comes amid tensions over the next occupant of the Department of Finance and contrasts with FG Grandees who have largely dismissed a deal with “flakey” Independents. This is in spite of a public offer from Dublin South poll-topper Shane Ross TD for an agreement with up to 8 Independent TDs. Among Independents who might be prepared to support a FG-minority government are Noel Grealish (publicly pledged for vote for Kenny as a “West of Ireland” Taoiseach, former FG TD Michael Lowry, Michael Healy-Rae, former FF TD Tom Fleming, Luke “Ming” Flanagan (who claims to agree with many FG policies), Stephen Donnelly (backed by David McWilliams in Wicklow), former FF TD Mattie McGrath and Shane Ross. Neither of these constitute part of the Leftist-bloc of ULA or SP Independents. An alliance with FG would produce 84 seats and allow FG to reward impressive performers who played a decisive role in shaping policy and building the foundations for the party’s spectacular gains which have made the party – for the first time in Irish political history – the largest in the State. A Coalition with Labour, in constrast, is likely to require the sacrifice of up to 6 Cabinet seats – possibly including the ‘Holy Grail’ of the Department of Finance. With double the seat numbers of Labour, the surrender of the most powerful position at the Cabinet (arguably more so in a Coalition than that of Taoiseach) would raise the spectre of a repeat of the unpopular 1982-7 FG-Labour Government where the senior party was abandoned en masse in the succeeding General Election as conservative and libertarian FG voters defected to the PDs, depriving the party of one-quarter of its vote and consigning it to 22 years (consecutive apart from an interlude in 1992-4) to the political-wilderness.
Any Coalition agreement will have to be ratified by Labour’s Special Delegate Conference and by FG TDs and Senators. Unions will have 10% of the votes while Labour Youth will havd 45 votes at the conference.