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Sunday 11 December 2016

Coalition partners split on vote transfer pact ahead of election

Joe Costello, Labour deputy for Dublin Central
Joe Costello, Labour deputy for Dublin Central

THE Coalition is split over the possibility of a formal voting pact in the run-up to the forthcoming general election.

Two Fine Gael Cabinet members yesterday came out strongly in favour of agreeing an official vote transfer arrangement with the Labour Party.

However, senior Labour figures are vehemently opposed to the move and insist the party will not support an election pact with Fine Gael.

Tanaiste Joan Burton recently distanced the party from suggestions that she would come to a voting arrangement with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The proposal was first raised by former Fine Gael director of elections Frank Flannery.

Ms Burton said it was far too early to talk about election pacts, when asked last month.

However, yesterday, Government chief whip, Paul Kehoe, said he believed an agreement was a possibility in the coming months.

“I would expect there will be a transfer pact between Fine Gael and Labour at the next election,” he said.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe later backed his Fine Gael Cabinet colleagues and said he “strongly” favours an election pact. “I do believe it is appropriate given the degree of cooperation that has happened between the political parties over the last four years,” he said.

However, Mr Donohoe’s constituency colleague in Dublin Central, Labour TD Joe Costello, insisted there was “no possibility” of a voting arrangement.

Mr Costello said a pact with Fine Gael would “dampen” Labour’s chances of getting transfers from other parties.

“I don’t see any need for an election pact. I think both parties have to stand on their own manifestos,” Mr Costello told the Irish Independent.

Hammer

“You can always hammer out something later on. It’s two separate parties and two separate visions of society. If there is a coalition then you have to compromise and try and get the maximum number of your policies in a programme for government,” he added.

Labour junior ministers Aodhan O Riordain and Kevin Humphreys both came out against a voting pact when  Mr Flannery first mentioned the possibility last month.

The ousted Fine Gael strategist said the Coalition would be able to sell its message of economic stability if it went before the electorate with a voting pact. The proposal was immediately shot down by senior Labour figures, who believe such an arrangement would benefit their senior Coalition partner rather than them.

However, senior Labour strategists are understood to be considering such a move, but it is likely to cause problems with the party’s membership.

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