FINE Gael ripped into its would-be partner in government Labour last night for “cuddling up” to Fianna Fáil.
Clearly still stung by Eamon Gilmore’s decision to derail its bid to put added pressure on Brian Cowen in the Dáil by blocking ministerial trips abroad, Fine Gael warned a vote for Labour could keep Fianna Fáil in power.
Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Alan Shatter raised the prospect of a repeat of the 1992 election when Labour formed a surprise government with Fianna Fáil.
“No one should take seriously Eamon Gilmore’s protestations that the Labour Party will not after the next election, if given the opportunity, join up with Fianna Fáil in government.
“Events confirm that Labour cannot resist the Fianna Fáil embrace. Whilst the Labour party enjoys the publicity it obtains from kicking Fianna Fáil for a while, it is always available to Fianna Fáil when that party is genuinely under pressure and in need of a political cuddle,” he said.
Mr Gilmore hit back saying that Labour was putting the interests of the country ahead of Oireachtas point-scoring by allowing Mary Coughlan a voting pair in the Dáil so she could lead an education push to the US.
“We should not obstruct a minister going to an event which might have the potential down the line to generate jobs or to generate investment in the country.
“We have 450,000 people out of work and we felt that the priority really is to do whatever can be done to try and get jobs for people and to try and get investment in this country,” he said.
Mr Gilmore again ruled out going into government with Fianna Fáil after the next election.
However, Fine Gael stuck to its guns, insisting the presence of the Education Minister at the gathering of US student counsellors in St Louis was “irrelevant” to bringing young people to Irish university courses.
Mr Shatter said Labour let Ms Coughlan “off the hook” from answering Dáil questions on the Fás training fiasco when the Dáil resumes today after a 12-week summer break.
Fine Gael refused to back down from its stance of not allowing Dáil pairing for ministers unless they are attending an EU or North/South meeting.
Though the party made it clear this would not be used to prevent the Taoiseach attending a major Asia/Europe summit in Brussels next week.
Science and Innovation Minister Conor Lenihan said the Fine Gael objection to pairing amounted to “sabotage” as the Government accused the main opposition party of being unpatriotic and potentially threatening job creation.
Brian Cowen said people needed to be “sensible” and recognise the national interest should always come before political interests.
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