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Thursday 8 December 2016

Labour TDs 'won't follow FG vote pact in practice'

Joe Costello
Joe Costello

LABOUR Party politicians insist that, in practice, they are unlikely to honour the controversial electoral pact with Fine Gael once the General Election campaign enters full swing.

A survey of Labour TDs and senators at the party's think-in in Wicklow has exposed a general sense of scepticism over the pact agreed between the Coalition partners.

Several party sources described the pact as a "PR exercise" and said they will not be directing their canvassing teams to urge voters to carry on their preferences to Fine Gael.

Others within the parliamentary party believe the pact is a necessary step to getting back into Government with Fine Gael, but said they do not intend to follow the agreement in practice in their constituencies.

Concern within the party about the impact of the agreement was addressed somewhat at the think-in by senior party officials. The party has agreed to ensure there is no mention of the pact on posters and election literature.

However, candidates will have the option of formally mentioning the pact on their personal election material if they like.

One Labour cabinet minister said these assurances illustrate the pact is aimed at building the "perception" that Fine Gael and Labour are approaching the election in unity.

"Do we actually expect our lads to ask people to transfer to Fine Gael? Course we don't," the minister said.

honoured

A junior minister said there is also little expectation that the agreement will be honoured in practice by Fine Gael.

Despite the concerns being expressed privately by Labour politicians, the pact was comfortably passed during a lengthy session at the think-in following a recommendation by party leader Joan Burton. Dublin Central TD Joe Costello was the only TD who spoke against the proposal. He believed the grassroots should be consulted.

Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan, who last week said he is completely against the proposal, was not present.

Some 20 TDs and senators spoke about the merits of the pact at the think-in on Monday, according to Labour parliamentary party chairman Jack Wall.

"Nineteen spoke in favour and just one spoke against so I was happy enough to allow the pact to pass without a vote. By doing this, we are sending a message that we are not afraid to say that we are proud of our record," he said.

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