A leading Labour backbencher has warned Tánaiste Joan Burton the party must not be “stampeded” into a pre-election voting pact with Fine Gael and that grassroots members need to be given their say on the deal.
Dublin Central TD Joe Costello made the comments in a damning statement responding to claims by senior Government ministers the agreement is already in place and is in the best interests of both parties.
Reacting to the claims last night, the long-standing TD said any pre-election voting pact with Fine Gael is “fraught with danger” for Labour and that the party must not be “stampeded” into a deal without first discussing its implications in depth.
He said “no final decision” has been made and insisted ordinary, grassroots Labour members must be allowed to contribute to any debate on the issue instead of just the parliamentary party, of TDs and senators.
“Labour should not be stampeded into a voting pact with Fine Gael prior to the next election,” Mr Costello warned.
“A voting pact is fraught with danger. Fine Gael has already distanced itself from a future coalition with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have made similar noises in relation to Fine Gael and to each other. Labour, therefore, is in an excellent position to pick up transfers from all of these parties, other smaller parties and independents.
“No final decision has yet been made. The issue will be debated at our ‘away day’ [the Labour parliamentary party’s pre-Dáil think in on Monday and Tuesday] next week. I believe it is a matter that should also be discussed by our members at our constituency councils the length and breadth of Ireland,” he said.
Mr Costello’s warning followed similar concerns raised by Meath East Labour TD Dominic Hannigan, who said “our members don’t want a pact and our voters don’t want a pact”.
The pre-election deal has also been criticised by Labour’s Dublin Bay North and Fingal branches.
However, Labour TDs John Lyons, Willie Penrose, Emmet Stagg and Arthur Spring support the proposal, on the condition it is a vote transfer pact and not a Mullingar accord-style common policy platform.
On RTÉ radio yesterday, Ms Burton said the deal will allow Ireland to “grab this opportunity” of economic recovery instead of listening to an opposition she described as “discordant and dismal” when it comes to finances.
Speaking before an EU farming meeting in Brussels, Fine Gael Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the plan is “a good idea” and would help continue the “very good job” the Coalition has done “in very difficult circumstances”.
“We have made some mistakes, but I think the big decisions have been the right decisions and I think Labour and Fine Gael have worked well on that,” he said.
While Government pact is just as much about seeing off the threat of left-wing groups by shoring up Labour seats, thereby allowing Fine Gael more room to avoid a coalition with Fianna Fáil.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the deal shows Labour’s “further capitulation” to austerity.
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