Gilmore warns of FG majority


Eamon Gilmore has appealed to voters not to give a “monopoly of power” to one party in Friday’s vote.

With the latest series of polls showing another surge in support for Fine Gael, the Labour leader conceded Fine Gael was almost certain to lead the next government.

However, Mr Gilmore said people had to decide if they wanted Labour to be part of that administration.

“It’s either going to be a single-party Fine Gael government, with a monopoly of power to one party, or it is going to be a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour.”

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Gilmore said he believed voters were looking for “balance” in the next administration, with polls showing a majority favoured coalition government, “and if that’s what they want they then will need to switch to Labour in order to make that happen”.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has “vehemently” denied allegations that it tried to stop party leader Enda Kenny being asked questions on his teacher’s pension in an interview on Newstalk Radio.

The interview, which was conducted yesterday and broadcast on this morning’s Breakfast Show , did not allude to the controversy surrounding Mr Kenny’s pension entitlements from his days as a teacher.

Newstalk’s Chris O’Donoghue later revealed that Mr Kenny only agreed to the interview so long as there was no mention of the issue, prompting Fianna Fáil’s John Curran to accuse Fine Gael of censorship.

“Fine Gael's insistence that Enda Kenny not be asked certain questions reflects that party's approach to running away from scrutiny when challenged,” he said.

But Mr Kenny, who indicated yesterday he would not take up his teacher’s pension, said he had clarified the issue and that the matter was now closed.

"I take virtue with a grain of salt coming from the soldiers of destiny,” he said of the Fianna Fáil criticism.

Under Dáil rules, Mr Kenny is entitled to a lump sum payment of about €100,000 when he turns 60 on April 24th. He would also have been entitled to an annual teaching pension of more than €30,000 on top of the money he earned as a politician.

Yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused Mr Kenny of “rank hypocrisy” given the Fine Gael leader's public criticism of outgoing ministers for accepting severance payments.

As the campaign entered its final three days, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll indicated the surge in support for Fine Gael has gathered pace since the election campaign began, and that Mr Kenny is now the preferred choice for taoiseach.

Fine Gael has gained four points in a little over two weeks but would need to make a similar gain in the final days of the campaign to have a chance of winning an overall majority in the next Dáil.

The Labour Party has slipped significantly since the start of the campaign and looks like being in a battle with Fianna Fáil for second place when the votes are counted next weekend.

The slide in Fianna Fáil support has been halted and the party is up marginally. The Greens are also up slightly, while Sinn Féin has dropped a little.

When people were asked who they would vote for if there were a general election tomorrow, the figures for party support (when undecided voters were excluded) compared with the last Irish Times poll on February 3rd were: Fianna Fáil, 16 per cent (up one point); Fine Gael, 37 per cent (up four points); Labour, 19 per cent (down five points); Sinn Féin, 11 per cent (down one point); Green Party, 2 per cent (up one point); and Independents/Others, 15 per cent (no change).

The poll was taken last Thursday and Friday, with a week to go in the campaign, among a representative sample of 1,000 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

With only a few days’ campaigning left, the party will be hoping for a strong performance from Mr Gilmore in the televised leaders’ debate tomorrow night to turn the tide.

On the election campaign trail today, Fine Gael outlined plans to prioritise job creation in the high tech sector as part of its economic recovery. The party said it would earmark €10 million from the Innovation Fund Ireland to support new start-up digital gaming companies.

In an address to the Irish Farmers's Association, Mr Martin said up 250,000 people were now dependent on the agriculture sector for their livelihoods, and said his party would place the sector at the centre of its economic recovery plan.