Bruton defends FG U-turn on pairing

Fine Gael's Richard Bruton has defended his party's position following its reversal of a threat to block the Taoiseach from attending an important EU summit by refusing to sanction a pairing arrangement for Dáil votes.

The practice of pairing - where the Opposition agrees to one of its deputies abstaining from a Dáil vote in instances where a Government deputy cannot vote due to absence - has been widely used to enable Govt members carry out official business.

The arrangement has been thrust into the spotlight after Fine Gael refused to sanction pairing for Tánaiste Mary Coughlan to attend an Enterprise Ireland event in the US, saying she should instead remain at home for the reconvening of the new Dáil term.

However the party's stance came in for heavy criticism with Labour's Ruairi Quinn eventually sidestepping his Opposition colleagues by offering what he called a "one-off pact" - a pairing arrangement to enable the Tánaiste travel Stateside.

Fine Gael also said it intended to only offer pairings where Govt members were obliged to attend meetings of the EU Council of Ministers or the North-South Ministerial Council.

But when the Irish Times ran a front page story suggesting the party's position could block a trip to Brussels by the Taoiseach to attend next week's Asia-Europe summit, Fine Gael quickly reversed its position.

Today Deputy Bruton defended his party's performance on the issue of pairing over the last number of days, saying that the strategy had been engineered in an attempt to bring about an early election.

"I think the people… want an election," Deputy Bruton said.

"I think the people have already recognised that this Government has lost the plot, and that the best way to address our economic problems is with a new government.

"That is Fine Gael's determination - to bring that about as quickly as possible."

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