Frances Fitzgerald: FG favours return of current Coalition

Fine Gael and Labour ‘have not discussed’ a joint approach to general election

The Minister said there was “no discussion whatsoever” with Labour about a joint approach to the next general election. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

The Minister said there was “no discussion whatsoever” with Labour about a joint approach to the next general election. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said Fine Gael and Labour have not discussed a joint approach to the next election but her “preference” is a return of the Coalition.

Ms Fitzgerald said the Government was focused on continuing to implement the Programme for Government, and she was chairing her party’s national strategy group.

“There is no discussion whatsoever at this point in relation to a joint approach but clearly we’ve made it very clear, as the Taoiseach has done... that our preference is to return to Government.”

The people would be asked to return the current Government “in the interests of stability”, Ms Fitzgerald told Morning Ireland on RTÉ on Tuesday.

However, she stressed no discussions had taken place. Both parties would present separate manifestos and any other decisions would be for a later date.

Ms Fitzgerald was responding to comments by political strategist Frank Flannery, who said Fine Gael and Labour’s best chance of re-election would be to contest the general election as a government rather than as individual parties.

Turning to Ireland’s agreement to accept 600 refugees, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, over the next two years, Ms Fitzgerald said the number was “tiny” compared to the challenges facing Italy and Greece.

Ms Fitzgerald said the new arrivals would be treated as asylum seekers. She described them as a “pre-selected group”, primarily from Syria and Eritrea.

The reason they were selected was because of the persecution they were fleeing.

“The expectation would be that a very high proportion would get refugee status and would get it very quickly,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said the preferred destination of the refugees was taken into account. Some might have family here already she added.

“Ireland doesn’t get a huge say,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said Ireland’s direct provision system was facing a doubling of applicants this year, although it was coming from a low base.

The system had its weaknesses, she said “but we are working towards improving the accommodation”.

Accommodating the refugees was a huge challenge facing many European countries.

Referring to the scale of the refugee crisis, Ms Fitzgerald described it as “enormous”.