herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

No poll until unemployment rate hits 9pc, warns Labour

Labour’s Kevin Humphreys believes an early election would cause the Banking Inquiry to collapse
Labour’s Kevin Humphreys believes an early election would cause the Banking Inquiry to collapse

Taoiseach Enda Kenny should resist pressure to call an early general election until the point at which the rate of unemployment falls below nine per cent, senior Labour Party figures have warned.

Opposition within the junior coalition party to a November poll has hardened in recent days – in sharp contrast to the views being expressed within Fine Gael.

Tanaiste Joan Burton and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin are known to be strongly of the view that the election should not take place until February at the earliest.

Labour ministers and TDs agree that a fall in unemployment below 9pc should be the factor that triggers a decision to go to polls. Unemployment currently sits at 9.7pc – the lowest level in over seven years. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to cut unemployment to 6pc over the lifetime of the next Government.

But Labour figures believe it would be foolish for Mr Kenny to call an early election for a number of reasons, particularly the expected continued fall in jobless figures.

“People are underestimating the psychological impact there will be if we reach a point where unemployment hits the eight per cent figure,” a Labour Cabinet source said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday refused to be drawn on whether he plans to call a November election.

Pressed on whether there would be an election before Christmas Mr Kenny said: “you don’t expect me to comment on that. People want to speculate about everything I do in the context of an election, but I have got to make that decision. I will make my decision in the best interest of the country of course”.

Focus

The Taoiseach was speaking in Killala, Co Mayo where he laid the foundation stone at a new €180m biomass power station. “My focus is on the budget”, he added.

Last night, Labour junior minister Kevin Humphreys said he believed it would be “wrong” for Mr Kenny to call an early election as a result of the ongoing work of the Banking Inquiry.

“The inquiry still has a report to complete and calling an early election could cause that work to collapse. That would be a wrong decision,” Mr Humphreys told the Herald.

The inquiry is not due to publish its final report until January.

The continued speculation surrounding the election date comes as the country’s largest trade union warned that a government formed solely by right wing parties would be a disaster for workers and those dependent on the State.

Siptu President Jack O’Connor said he was very concerned at “a poverty of ambition” amongst Ireland’s left wing parties.

He also acknowledged that Ireland’s left wing parties need to build new alliances, given the emergence of independents.

The warning came as the Siptu boss said the union will have to think carefully on a motion for the 200,000-member body to sever its political and financial ties to the Labour Party.

A motion has been tabled by Siptu’s education sector for the union to end its exclusive links with the Labour Party given the Coalition’s support of austerity, water charges and State asset sell-offs since 2011.

The proposal will be formally voted on by the union at a conference in Cork tomorrow.

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