Parties look ahead to 2016 at MacGill Summer School

Burton says Coalition has worked well while Martin expects ‘negative’ Fine Gael campaign

Tánaiste Joan Burton with Sinn Féin’s Padraig Mac Lochlainn and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties. Photograph: North West Newspix

Tánaiste Joan Burton with Sinn Féin’s Padraig Mac Lochlainn and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties. Photograph: North West Newspix


Tánaiste and Labour party leader Joan Burton has acknowledged some tensions between her party and Fine Gael in Government but said they had not reduced its effectiveness.

Speaking in Glenties last night at the MacGill Summer School, Ms Burton said the “marriage of convenience” had actually worked well for both political parties.

She was responding to earlier comments from political strategist Frank Flannery, when he likened the relationship between Fine Gael and Labour to a bad marriage. He said the parties did not like each other but worked well in Government.

“Lots of marriages have tension and that tension can be very creative if the parties want to stay together,” said Ms Burton.

“There has been creative tensions between the two parties on different occasions,” she said, but insisted the point was that “people in Ireland have benefitted because we have seen a significant return to prosperity in this country. We are not completely out of the woods yet.”

Ms Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin justice spokesman Padraig Mac Lochlainn were involved in what was effectively the first election debate last night during a session looking ahead to politics in 2016.

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“Fine Gael has already briefed constituencies its electoral strategy will have two parts. First there will be promises of lots of money on the way. Second there will be an all-out negative campaign against the opposition.

“This very much reflects Fine Gael’s commitment to the British Tory election strategy. What they miss of course is that the Tories did not start so far behind, were not as unpopular, did not have scandals and crises such as in justice and health – and a water charge which is losing money and reducing funding for fixing pipes.

“There is also the small matter of whether Labour will continue to meekly accept that it should play the role of the Liberal Democrats,” he said.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said Sinn Féin would abolish water charges, scrap the property tax, introduce a wealth tax and introduce a third rate of income tax for those earning over €100,000.

“We will deliver on all-Ireland projects and continue to make real progress in the Assembly, rather than merely paying lip service to the North. We believe that a fair recovery is possible, which must be built on real investment in real jobs,” he said.

In her speech Ms Burton said the Government recognised there was continual anger at some of its policies.

“The Opposition is picking up on that anger and frustration and seeking to capitalise on it.

“But you cannot govern a country by feeding perpetual anger. Ultimately, voters want solutions, not just soundbites.

“They want stable government, which is precisely what Labour and Fine Gael have delivered, while resolving the worst economic crisis this country has suffered,” she said.

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“The sense of the gotcha moment or conspiracy theories did not happen,” he said.

“In the fullness of time people are getting a more rounded version, people are making up their own mind in terms of the crash and the global dimensions of it.”

Asked about comments by political strategist Frank Flannery that Fianna Fáil might go into a grand coalition with Fine Gael as a patriotic imperative, Mr Martin dismissed the suggestion.

“I think the people will decide who forms the next government. There will be lot of surprises.

“It’s wide open and no particular party can say they will be the lead party.”