Burton to ask Labour TDs to ratify FG transfer pact
Too early to talk about common policy aims for coalition partners, say party sources
Tánaiste Joan Burton is expected to raise the transfer pact proposal at the parliamentary party’s away day in Wicklow next month. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
However, party sources said Ms Burton would only ask for the go-ahead to agree a pact with their Government partners and not a statement of common policy aims.
Figures from both coalition parties have raised the prospect of co-operation between Fine Gael and Labour in order to maximise their support in an election campaign.
While a joint manifesto has been ruled out by those at the top in Fine Gael and Labour, there have been calls for a joint statement of policy aims.
Fine Gael sources previously expressed concern that a policy alignment that was too close with Labour could dilute the senior party’s tax-cutting message in the election.
The rainbow coalition of Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left offered a number of common aims, while outlining individual manifestos, when seeking re-election in 1997. Senior Fine Gael figures believe this allowed Fianna Fáil under Bertie Ahern to make gains with a simpler tax-cutting message.
Ms Burton will put the transfer pact proposal to her parliamentary party at its away day in Wicklow. Party sources believe this will keep the junior party relevant in the election campaign.
While it is not expected there will be a vote on the issue, party figures expect some TDs and Senators to object. “The key issue is agreeing and choreographing the transfer deal as we believe that this will frame the choice for the electorate,” said one. “They have not focused on this up to now.
“Agreeing the transfer deal will frame the central choice facing the electorate between stability and things continuing to get better versus chaos and the enormous risk to economic and social prosperity this entails.”
A major element of Labour’s election offering will be insisting more resources are allocated to spending on areas such as childcare and education, whereas Fine Gael is expected to emphasise tax cuts.
Labour will seek to alter the existing coalition agreement whereby the so-called fiscal space is divided evenly between cutting taxes and increasing spending.
Given the differences, it is acknowledged a common statement of aims in the election may only focus on a broad economic framework.
“We’ll have to see how it develops on policy priorities – it may be only possible to agree an overall macroeconomic framework,” the Labour source said.
Separately, a senior Fianna Fáil figure said coalition with Fine Gael would make “no sense” for the party strategically.