Election 2016: Coalition keen not to talk up Independents

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in full ‘taking nothing for granted’ mode

 Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: “Certainly there is no Fine Gael candidate who is safe and they’ll all be fighting for their seats.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: “Certainly there is no Fine Gael candidate who is safe and they’ll all be fighting for their seats.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The best way to neutralise the electoral threat of Independents is to refuse to engage with the narrative that a new government will need their support, Coalition figures have concluded.

With the general election looming, some non-party TDs are certainly making the most of their moment in the sun and talking up their potential as future kingmakers to their constituents.

Managing this development is a delicate matter for Fine Gael representatives in particular.

Stung by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s jibe that the Fine Gael-led administration wanted a “coronation” rather than an election, the party is extremely sensitive about being branded as arrogant.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar was in full “taking nothing for granted” mode on Tuesday when he was asked about the possibility of Tipperary TD Michael Lowry supporting a Fine Gael-led government in the next Dáil.

He said he was “uncomfortable” with any talk about forming a government because the election had not yet taken place.

‘Disrespectful’

“I think sometimes people may see it as disrespectful to them to be trying to form a government before they’ve voted and the election is not yet called, not yet won,” he said. “Certainly there is no Fine Gael candidate who is safe and they’ll all be fighting for their seats.”

That might be something of a stretch, but a number of party sources said Fine Gael would be “mad” to effectively talk up the chances of Independent candidates.

“If we go around saying we’re going to do a deal with this guy or that guy, the risk is it makes them relevant in constituencies where we are fighting for seats,” a source said.

“We are not going to play the game because it doesn’t make sense for us to play the game. If the Taoiseach rules out Lowry, you guys will move on to Michael Healy-Rae.”

The strategy is to not even contemplate, publicly at least, the need for Independents to make up the numbers in a new Dáil.

“We genuinely haven’t conceded that we are going to come up short.”

Fine Gael and Labour will also attempt to paint a picture of non-party TDs as flaky and individualistic.

However, there is little evidence that the Irish voter’s traditional appetite for constituency-specific, “pork barrel” deals has diminished.

So it could prove a tall order for Government representatives in some constituencies to convince voters to resist the tantalising lure of Independents and plump for “stability”.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.