Labour Party open to new coalition with Fine Gael

Senior party figures to seek members’ consensus to realign with Fine Gael and Greens

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton at Herb Street Cafe, Grand Canal, Dublin, ahead of the election. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton at Herb Street Cafe, Grand Canal, Dublin, ahead of the election. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Labour Ministers and TDs will speak to their constituency members this weekend about a possible return to government with Fine Gael.

Following intensive discussions in recent days and renewed requests from acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny, senior Labour figures are increasingly convinced that they should explore a new coalition deal with Fine Gael and the Green Party.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has told party figures he will not attempt to block Labour’s participation in government. Mr Martin has said that it is not up to Fianna Fáil to pick who Fine Gael goes into government with but that his offer to facilitate a minority government stands, subject to agreement on how the new arrangement would work.

Fianna Fáil’s position is that Fine Gael must prove it has the declared support of at least an additional six deputies, on top of the 52 who voted for Mr Kenny on Thursday, before it agrees to facilitate his election as taoiseach.

Mr Kenny has been intensively lobbying Labour Ministers about returning to government in recent days, and held another meeting with Tánaiste Joan Burton on Thursday.

Privately sceptical

His preferred option is a government made up of Fine Gael, the Labour Party, the Green Party and some Independents.

In advance of a meeting today between Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, one of the group’s founders, Finian McGrath, said that Independents would expect at least five cabinet seats if they agree to get involved in a Fine Gael minority government.

Meanwhile, Siptu president Jack O’Connor said his personal view is that the Labour Party should “use its mandate, if it can, in the interest of working people and those who depend on public services.”

It is clear, he said, that “either Labour makes a contribution to stable government or there is another election.”

Stressing he was giving his personal view, Mr O’Connor said that Labour “would need to be clear in its demands” – on investment in public services, the minimum wage and the workers’ rights agenda.

Strong resistance

Willie Penrose

However, party sources say senior Ministers, Ms Burton, Alan Kelly and Brendan Howlin, believe that the party should return to government.

Ms Burton’s spokesman said that while the party had made clear after the election that its future role was in opposition, there is now a “clear vacuum”.

Negotiating teams from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil met again yesterday afternoon following an earlier phone conversation between Mr Kenny and Mr Martin.

A Fine Gael spokesman described it as “a constructive meeting” and said contacts between both parties would continue over the weekend before another meeting on Monday.