Fine Gael needs Labour as a coalition partner, Howlin says

Minister claims Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are not serious about entering government

Ministers Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan. File photograph: Alan Betson

Ministers Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan. File photograph: Alan Betson


Fine Gael will lead the next government but only the Labour Party is willing and able to provide stability and balance with its coalition partners, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has said.

Writing in Monday’s Irish Times, Mr Howlin says Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are not serious about entering government and that efforts to build “a platform involving the so- called left have been shambolic”.

He also questions whether Fine Gael in power with a smaller conservative party or a group of right-wing Independents would provide stable government.

Mr Howlin’s intervention makes him the most senior Labour figure to date to attempt to frame the question of who will share power with Fine Gael as one of key issues of the forthcoming election campaign.

Minister for Communications Alex White recently said Fine Gael should not be let into government on its own because this would lead to a “more right-wing government”.

Last week, Siptu president Jack O’Connor, who is a Labour member but holds no official position in the party, warned that a single-party Fine Gael government “must be avoided at all costs”.

Social reforms

He claims Labour in power has pushed social reforms such as same-sex marriage and a number of left-of-centre issues, such as collective bargaining and the recent deal on rent and housing.

“What kind of government do we want?” he asks.

“This Government has been a balance of left and right. Yet this balanced Government is not an inevitable consequence of the next election. It has to be voted for.

“Consider the alternatives. In Ireland the two largest Opposition parties will not coalesce. Neither is interested in doing business with Fine Gael and will certainly not seek a mandate to do so.”

Shambolic left

“The question may arise as to whether the election of Fine Gael, with the possible support of smaller right-wing parties or right-wing Independents, could also provide that stability . . . Only Labour is determined to ensure the balance of left and right continues in the next administration.”

Speaking on Sunday, Tánaiste Joan Burton said people would “weigh up very carefully a number of things” when they went to vote, particularly the improvement in the economy.

“Labour has a vision that is very much about the kind of society we want to see and that’s a society which emphasises equality,” she said.

“Equality in economic terms, as well as equality in social terms.

“So I think for thoughtful voters as they go to the polls we will certainly be working very energetically right up to polling of the values Labour has brought to Government but more importantly what we can do in a further government, now that we have brought the economy around to actually drive equality even more.”