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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 29, 2008 @ 2:18 pm

    ‘Just a straight Yes or No’

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    This is the transcript supplied to political correspondents by TV3 from last night’s interview with the Irish Labour Party leader on The Political Party, now broadcast on Friday nights at 11 pm. Ursula Halligan is a very good interviewer and so is RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke who also recently tried to pin Eamon Gilmore down on this issue of coalition with Fianna Fáil.

    Ursula Halligan: “If you look at the opinion polls at the moment and if they’re half right, it would look like Labour after the next election will hold the balance of power and it looks like it would be very unlikely that Fianna Fáil could ever get back into power without Labour – is that something you’re ruling out? Just a straight Yes or No – are you ruling that out?”

    Eamon Gilmore: “No, now let’s look at the opinion polls because your question is based on the opinion polls.”

    Ursula Halligan: “But it looks like you will hold the balance of power.”

    Eamon Gilmore: “Based on the last couple of opinion polls, there would be a change in Government and Fianna Fáil would be out of office.”

    Ursula Halligan: “So you would be in Government with Fine Gael?”

    Eamon Gilmore: “Based on the last, if you look at the MRBI poll, you look at the RedC poll and I think we’ve had a succession of three of them now, the conclusion from all of those polls, all of those polls, if they replicated in a general election, would produce, in all probability, a Labour/ Fine Gael Government. That’s what would be the result.”

    Ursula Halligan: “But it could also produce a Labour/ Fianna Fail Government?”

    Eamon Gilmore: “No, it wouldn’t actually because if you look at – the numbers wouldn’t stack up …”

    Ursula Halligan: “I’m just asking a very simple question and then we can move on from this – I’m just asking, are you ruling out a Labour/ Fianna Fáil Government the next time round? Can you just say that you’re ruling it out?”

    Eamon Gilmore: “I can’t predict the outcome of the next general election.”

    Ursula Halligan: “So you’re leaving it open?”

    Eamon Gilmore: “No, what I am saying because the premise in that question and I want to deal with this very definitely, the premise in that question, is that politics in this country is always a two-horse race between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I don’t see it like that at all. There is a third option and the third option is Labour …”

    Ursula Halligan: “But you can’t do it on your own. You do need Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. Let’s be realistic about this.”

    Eamon Gilmore: “I don’t go for this argument, that you can’t do (it). I mean, 12 months ago …”

    Ursula Halligan: “You don’t have the numbers.”

    Eamon Gilmore: “But, sure lookit, 12 months ago, people 12 months ago were predicting that the two candidates for the American presidential election were going to be Hilary Clinton and Mitt Romney. Barack Obama was 25% behind.”

    Ursula Halligan: “Sorry, are you saying that Labour are going to get an overall majority in the next election?”

    Eamon Gilmore: “No, I’m not saying that but what I am saying, what I am refusing to do, is I am refusing to consign Labour as the also-rans of politics.”

    Ursula Halligan: “Okay, but you’re also refusing to rule out a Labour/ Fianna Fáil Government?”

    Eamon Gilmore: “No, I am not going to go down this idea that there is only, that politics in this country is only going to be about a two-horse race.”

    • BetterWorld Now says:

      I think he should come clean and just say that he will not take part in any government that he is not Taoiseach of. Only then will it become a three-horse race, Inda, Cowen and Eamo.

      On the current economic trajectory, and given Cowen’s lifetime adherence to neo-liberal ideology, by the time the next election comes around this country will be on the brink of collapse. ‘Inda’ will be even older and even less believable than he is now (if he’s still there at all) and Cowen’s ratings will make George W. Bush look popular.

      Game on.

      He may have to shoot some high-profile Labour collaborators to pull it off – some of his front bench team would sell their granny for a junior Merc in anyone’s government. But then, whipping your troops into shape has always been the best way for an opposition politician to show his leadership mettle.

      Gilmore may harbour the ambition, but he has yet to show he is ruthless enough to turn that ambition into a reality. Events, for once, are likely to run in his favour. A few carefully-chosen high-profile scalps will show he is serious, allow him to seize the initiative and end for once and all the petty questioning of an Irish media without the imagination to see beyond tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber.

      But then, it may not be a lack of imagination, it may be part of a perennial media campaign to keep Labour in the ‘also ran’ slot, one that every Labour leader has acquiesced in.

      So far.

    • Des Johnson says:

      I couldn’t answer “yes” or “no” if asked if I’d have eggs for breakfast tomorrow. And interviewers who insist on such answers are silly. Try Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, NYC, with true Irish-American Catholic certainty: . “I must have a yes or no answer.”

      David Letterman, late show host, dealt with Bill nicely on such a question. “I won’t answer that question,” he said, “because I’m a thoughtful person.”

      Gilmore is not just a thoughtful person, he’s a politician and something of a realist. How many factors can change before the election to unbalance the equation? And who will be out to settle scores as a result? Who will die before the next election? Who will have a sexchange and run away with his pet trainer before the election? Will there be an election, or will Brian petition to return to the Commonwealth?

      Mirror, mirror on the wall!

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      I tend to agree that demanding Yes or No answers on this topic is ridiculous. Gilmore could say Labour will not go in with FF, then FF could ditch Cowen and transform itself into a very left-leaning party, while FG (post the horrors of a bad dinner in a Dublin restaurant which has left the front bench in a coma) comes under the sway of a random backbencher who has all the political aptitude for leadership of a small barnacle, and then where would Gilmore be?

      If it were me that were asked the question I would as politely as I could tell Ursula that I wasn’t going to answer that question in the manner that she would like in the same way that she wouldn’t give me or anyone a straight answer as to whether she would ever leave TV3.

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