Fine Gael and Labour’s parliamentary parties will be asked to agree to a general election voting pact at their upcoming think-ins in a Coalition bid to fight off growing political competition.
The parties confirmed the long-suggested move last night as billions of euro worth of high-profile post-election spending plans in road, rail, and childcare were leaked and as Labour junior minister Kathleen Lynch responded to speculation by saying she will run in the next general election.
Under plans outlined by the Government parties, both Fine Gael and Labour TDs and senators will be asked to sign up to a voting pact over the coming days in an attempt to continue the Coalition’s reign.
The pact will see both parties agree to encourage voters to put each other as second or third preferences after their own candidates but, unlike the controversial 2007 general election ‘Mullingar Accord’, will not involve any shared policies.
Fine Gael TDs and senators will be the first to have their formal say on the plan at the party’s think-in in Adare, Co Limerick, this Thursday and Friday, before their Labour counterparts respond at their own event in Wicklow next Monday and Tuesday.
Grass-roots members will not have a say on the deal until after this key stage — which is likely to seal its implementation — takes place.
The measures were widely backed by both parties last night, with Labour’s Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Tánaiste Joan Burton saying the pact is about ensuring the “stability” of the country and the economic recovery.
When asked whether the pact is also about stabilising Labour’s slumping poll standing and preventing the threat of left-wing groups taking previous Labour strongholds, or Fine Gael choosing to sign up with Fianna Fáil instead if required, a spokesperson for Ms Burton said the primary focus is on the improving economy, although seat retention is a factor.
The pact plan emerged as Government leaked a series of spending measures it claims could be introduced after the general election, including a €4.5bn splurge on road and rail projects and a previously announced plan to double maternity leave.
Fine Gael Jobs Minister Richard Bruton will also announce his department’s South-East jobs plan later today.
However, Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty noted that the deals are a “list” and money is not available for everything.
Meanwhile, Ms Lynch, minister of state at the Department of Health, will run in the general election after failing to put her name forward last Friday.
The Cork North Central TD said in a statement last night that she will seek the nomination this Thursday, putting the delay down to being “anxious to discuss issues in relation to my own areas of interest” with senior party figures which “diary clashes” prevented before last Friday.
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