Labour to distance itself from Fine Gael to regain core voters

Labour is planning to distance itself from Fine Gael as election momentum builds in a bid to regain support from its core voters.

Despite a voting pact now locking the parties together for the election, Tánaiste Joan Burton has rejected suggestions that a vote for Labour is a vote for Fine Gael.

The theme of its election campaign, that Labour is ‘better for all’, was yesterday discussed behind closed doors at Labour’s think-in which was held in Wicklow.

Six key messages or issues for the party’s election manifesto have been agreed. These include childcare, community healthcare, tax reform, investment in workers, affordable homes and a more inclusive Ireland, party sources confirmed.

While Fine Gael is expected to focus on business and the economy during its campaign, Labour expects to zone in on ordinary citizens in online advertisements and campaign material to help deliver the party’s message.

Amid Opposition accusations that a vote for Labour is a vote for Fine Gael, Ms Burton said that this was “absolutely not” the case.

In an earlier interview with RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she lashed out at the national broadcaster during a tense debate with one of the show’s presenters, Gavin Jennings.

After repeated questions about what cuts would be reversed, including those made to child benefit, Ms Burton then said: “I don’t know what world RTÉ inhabits, perhaps, in Dublin 4.”

It is understood that the Tánaiste and presenter then had a brief discussion off air.

Labour to distance itself from Fine Gael to regain core voters

Asked about the interview later, Ms Burton said there was a “robust” exchange between the two. “I think the role of the media is to reflect the country honestly and the concerns of the media as the media decides, but I do think and was seeking to make the point, that the country has come to a much better place,” she said.

Ms Burton also admitted there would be no reversal of cuts to the back to school allowance.

Asked about why Labour had not prevented Fine Gael introducing cuts during the lifetime of this government, as the junior Coalition partner promised before the last election, Ms Burton said that Labour had protected weekly social welfare rates, helped create 110,000 extra jobs, and reduced unemployment from 15% to 9.5%.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin is attempting to leave some wriggle room for his €750m in spending on services in the budget by ‘front-loading’ costs onto this year.

In doing this, it may allow the Coalition to announce certain measures or initiatives which would be excluded when it comes to EU restrictions which preclude the Coalition from spending more than €1.5bn next year.


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