Sunday 21 January 2018

Kenny and Kelly backing 'fighter' Burton to survive

Tanaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton with students in Luttrellstown Community College, Clonsilla (Collins)
Tanaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton with students in Luttrellstown Community College, Clonsilla (Collins)

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Labour Party deputy leader Alan Kelly have led the rallying call for Joan Burton amid fears she will lose her Dail seat.

Labour are set to put an extra focus on Dublin West after a Herald/Millward Brown poll showed she was trailing Ruth Coppinger by 5pc for the final seat in the constituency.

Party sources said the results would "spur on" her supporters in the final two weeks of campaign.

The poll showed that Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Sinn Fein's Paul Donnelly were both on 20pc, followed by Fianna Fail's Jack Chambers on 17pc.

Ms Coppinger is in fourth place on 15pc, while the Tanaiste is languishing on 10pc.


Labour sources said they knew Ms Burton was in a battle, but the poll has refocused everybody. "It's difficult, because she needs to be at national events everyday and at the same time look after the constituency," said a source.

Reacting to the poll, Ms Burton pointed to the 14pc of voters who were undecided.

"I have said repeatedly to yourselves and others that, in terms of this particular election, I don't think a lot of people will make up their mind until very close to election day," she said.

"I'm told that I'm very transfer friendly. That's something that I've been told before. Polls are part of life for a politician, I read them with great interest."

Ms Burton previously lost her seat in 1997, but continues to insist that she is "very confident" of surviving.

Her deputy leader Alan Kelly - who has ambitions to be the next party leader - jumped to her defence. "Anyone who underestimates Joan Burton, does so at their peril," he said. "Joan Burton is one of the best political fighters that I have ever seen.

"She will win her seat, and she will lead the Labour party into the next government, I have no doubt about that."

Mr Kelly tried to avoid questions about whether he would want to take over if the Tanaiste is not back in Leinster House after the election.

"It's not going to be an issue, she will lead us into the next government."

"I'm telling you, can I be very clear about this ... Joan Burton is not going to lose her seat."

However, he eventually added: "Everyone who walks into Dail Eireann has aspirations to go as far in politics as they can, that's just a natural thing."

Speaking in Tuam, Co Galway, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Ms Burton was "a fighter".


He praised her work at the Department of Social Protection saying she had driven a transformation in its work from "just a list of people drawing the dole" to a "vibrant living entity" that helps the unemployed find work and training. "I'm glad to see Fine Gael showing up well in that particular poll - not that I have any great belief in them [polls].

"I expect the Tanaiste to fight her corner and fight it well."

Asked if he would encourage Leo Varadkar's supporters to vote strategically and help ensure Ms Burton wins back her seat, Mr Kenny replied: "Obviously Fine Gael are advised to canvass the Fine Gael ticket, vote for the Fine Gael ticket - after that to vote for the Labour candidates."

The poll showed that 43pc of Fine Gael voters in Dublin intend to give their second preference to Ms Burton.

The fact that the highest number of voters in Dublin West cited 'Hospitals/Health Service' as the number one issue that will affect their vote appears to be playing out well for Mr Varadkar.

Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown has been repeatedly in the news due to overcrowding in its emergency department, but it was also announced as the site of the new Rotunda Hospital last year.

Around 15pc of voters said the economy would be the key factor when deciding their vote.

Just 10pc of Dublin West voters said water charges was their number one issue despite Ms Coppinger being heavily involved in the anti-water charge protests.

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