After initially sparking confusion by appearing to leave the door slightly ajar to a post-election deal with FF, Mr Gilmore was forced into an embarrassing second clarification in which he firmly rejected such a coalition under any circumstances.
Mr Gilmore said Labour would hand the job of Taoiseach to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny if that was the only way to put FF into opposition.
However, he refused to accept this meant the only possible majority Dáil coalition would be an FG/Labour one, or that the two parties needed to co-ordinate their policies – which are radically at odds on NAMA and the public sector – ahead of a general election.
After initially backing-off from categorically ruling out a pact with Fianna Fáil at the beginning of Labour’s two day parliamentary party “think-in” in Waterford, Mr Gilmore was then left red faced as he needed to make a further statement making it clear what his views really were.
“Fianna Fáil are not people we want to see in government. We will do everything possible to put them in opposition and Labour in government in their stead,” he said.
Despite ending talk of a possible coalition with FF, Mr Gilmore continued to insist he could be Taoiseach after the next election – but Dáil arithmetic would make such a scenario extremely unlikely in a Labour/Fine Gael hook-up. It could only theoretically come about if Labour maintained it’s opinion poll standing above Fianna Fáil when real votes are counted – and a badly defeated FF took the highly unusual step of swallowing its pride and agreeing to a junior role in a coalition.
“The general election is shaping up to be a three-way contest and Labour’s objective in that three-way contest will be to lead that government,” Mr Gilmore said.
Mr Gilmore told the gathering of Labour TD’s and senators that the party’s war machine was ready to roll in to snap election mode with just a few days notice.
He condemned the “toxic trio” of developers, bankers and FF who, he claimed, had caused the economic crash.
He warned NAMA was another creation of the “unhealthy” connections between the three groups, and only a temporary nationalisation of the country’s two main banks would ensure the taxpayer got value for money in bailing-out financial institutions.
The meeting was also addressed by leading economist Karl Whelan who rubbished the Government’s NAMA plans.