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As they fight for their lives, Labour warns that people could get a government they don't want

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste made their final pitches to voters in Dublin today.

Updated 4.40pm

24/02/2016. GENERAL ELECTION 2016 - LABOUR. Pictur Alex White, Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin outside Labour headquarters in Dublin today Source: sam boal

LABOUR HAS WARNED of the possibility of “conservative” Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil government as one minister admitted that every one of the party’s TDs is fighting for their political lives.

The two coalition parties made their final pitches to voters this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s broadcast moratorium and the general election on Friday.

Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton said there’s a “danger” that the election could yield a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil government which “nobody wants”.

“There is a possibility – I would say a danger – that we will end up in a couple of weeks with a government which apparently nobody wants,” Burton told reporters at Labour’s final campaign press conference in Dublin today.

She added: “If the current polls are an indicator, we are faced with the stark reality that an arrangement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael may happen.

Public opinion is more progressive, more liberal, more anxious for change than at any time in the past and yet we could end up by default with perhaps the most conservative government in recent decades.

Burton said she has seen the return of the “certain smugness of Fianna Fáil” during the general election campaign, adding:

Smugness with a smile in the case of Micheál Martin – old wine in new bottles, the new Micheál bottles.

Asked if she would be willing to participate as a junior coalition party in a Fianna Fáil-led government, Burton said “that doesn’t attract me at all, that does not attract me one iota”.

24/02/2016. GENERAL ELECTION 2016 - LABOUR. Pictur Source: sam boal

Public Expenditure Minster Brendan Howlin admitted that every Labour deputy is facing a fight to hold onto their seats.

Everybody knows that every Labour deputy is fighting for their political lives and we want to talk to as many of our own constituents as we can.

Communications Minister Alex White said that Labour is the only party that can deliver  referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

“It is inconceivable that an arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will see any progress on Eighth Amendment,” he claimed.

White said that Labour is the only left-of-centre party with a programme for “further progressive reform”.

Enda’s mistakes

fg 763 90409742 Enda Kenny outside the Bord Gais Energy Theatre today Source: Sam Boal

Meanwhile, Enda Kenny admitted earlier that he makes mistakes “the same as everybody else”. The Taoiseach was speaking at the end of campaign that has been marred by a series of gaffes.

These include his comments about the vast majority of people not understanding ‘economic jargon’, his reluctance to rule out doing a deal with Michael Lowry, and his ‘whingers’ comment in Castlebar last weekend.

“I am human, the same as everybody else, I make mistakes,” Kenny told reporters at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

But I am man enough to acknowledge and accept responsibility for these things. I think the hallmark of leadership is how you move on from issues that arise like that.

Kenny was also asked if he had “blown it” by not going to the country last November.

He insisted that he was very happy that he had done the right thing, claiming that relations with Labour would had been “ruptured” by calling the election last year.

In his remarks today, Kenny warned that the recovery is “fragile” and “incomplete” and said his party had the only credible plan to create jobs over the next five years.

Kenny said there is a stable government on offer if the people wish to choose it, and talked up the chances of Fine Gael and Labour winning re-election, insisting:

We’ve had quite a few polls in the last number of days. Four of them have shown Fine Gael on 30%. Obviously with the Labour Party we’re close to 40%.

If returned to government, Kenny said he would look to solve the housing and homeless crisis, health and mental health issues. 

Kenny was also asked about his comment in last night’s leaders’ debate where he appeared to admit, for the first time, appointing John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

fg 972 90409754 Michael Noonan and Enda Kenny at today's press conference Source: Sam Boal

“What I did was make an appointment that did not need to be made,” Kenny told Miriam O’Callaghan on last night’s debate.

Asked today if he misspoke, Kenny said:

No, the appointment was a line appointment, which I took responsibility for in the Dáil and the appointment was the line appointment by a minister.

He later insisted he had no input into the appointment of McNulty by the Arts Minister Heather Humphreys.

The Fine Gael leader said as a result of that controversy you could not become “a member of the lawnmower committee in a department” unless you are vetted and scrutinised beforehand.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan rejected suggestions that the polls are fragmented, insisting that the last Red C poll for Paddy Power puts the current Fine Gael and Labour government on a combined 38%.

“I have seen governments formed with a score of 41% or 42%,” he said, disagreeing with the premise that the only possible coalition after the election could be Fianna Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The Limerick TD said the coalition hopes to recover “the three or four points we need” to return to government without the help of independents.

Read: Gerry Adams condemns death threat made to Fine Gael TD

Read: The creak during the Leaders’ Debate was Gerry’s sore back

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Hugh O'Connell

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