Labour aim to ‘take out’ second-tier Fine Gael candidates in election
THE Labour Party is actively trying to “take out” the weaker of the Fine Gael candidates in a series of key constituencies in a desperate bid to prevent a number of its own ministers from losing their seats, the Herald can reveal.
Labour believes it must
persuade Fine Gael voters to give their second preferences to the junior coalition partner in constituencies where there are at least three government candidates.
With Taoiseach Enda Kenny now leaning towards an election date of February 26, voters who are set on supporting Fine Gael in the ballot boxes are being asked to pass their support on to Labour “in the interests of ensuring the re-election of the Coalition”.
The strategy is being implemented in a number of key constituencies – including Dublin-Rathdown, Tipperary, Dublin Bay South and Dublin Bay North – where there are at least two Fine Gael candidates and one Labour on the ticket.
“We are saying to Fine Gael people clearly to vote Fine Gael-Labour-Fine Gael in that order in order to return this government. It may be seen as us trying to take out the weaker Fine Gael candidate but we have to do that,” said a senior Labour source.
“In many places, it is crucial that we finish ahead of the second and third Fine Gael candidates.”
The revelation will cause alarm within Fine Gael, and appears to ridicule the transfer pact agreed between the two parties.
The pact receives no mention in a 35-page campaign guide circulated to candidates and their campaign teams at the Labour conference in Mullingar.
Labour strategists privately believe they can win in the region of 15 to 17 seats – but say several of their candidates are in a dogfight for the final seat.
Examples include Dublin-Rathdown where it is felt that communications minister Alex White must finish ahead of Fine Gael councillor Josepha Madigan if he is to have a chance of survival.
In Tipperary, Labour is targeting Noel Coonan’s support, with the view that junior minister Tom Hayes’s seat is safe.
The situation is similar in Dublin Bay South, where Labour’s Kevin Humphreys is in a dogfight with the second Fine Gael candidate, Kate O’Connell.
In Dublin Bay-North, sitting minister Aodhan O Riordain’s chances appear to hinge on him beating the second Fine Gael candidate, Naoise O Muiri.
Elsewhere, there is also growing concern about the prospects of Tanaiste Joan Burton, with sources saying she is facing a huge challenge from Fianna Fail’s Jack Chambers.
There are also two Fine Gael candidates in her constituency – health minister Leo Varadkar and Senator Catherine Noone.
Ms Burton was yesterday forced to defend her decision to sack former party leaders Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte from Cabinet.
She said that the move, taken during the Cabinet reshuffle of July 2014, was necessary in order to facilitate the promotions of younger TDs.
“I wanted to provide, as I said at the time, room for the class of 2011,” she told RTE’s The Week in Politics.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is now believed to be leaning towards Friday, February 26 for the election date. Fine Gael sources say there is still a possibility of Mr Kenny opting for February 25 – but that he will be keen to avoid any suggestion whereby he is “depriving” students of casting their vote.
The charge surfaced at the Labour conference over the weekend and was repeated by party sources last night.
Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly, whose department must rubber-stamp the election date one it is announced, is understood to be particularly determined that Mr Kenny chooses a Friday poll.
“Kelly and others in the party made it clear he wants it on a Friday. Does Kenny want to risk an unnecessary row? I doubt it,” said a Labour source.
Mr Kenny has summoned Fine Gael ministers to a meeting in Dublin tonight ahead of his expected decision to dissolve the Dail tomorrow.
But Fine Gael strategists said Mr Kenny could decide to wait until Wednesday before calling the election, depending on schedule issues and the progress of final Dail business.