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A war of words has broken out between Fine Gael and Labour

A Labour senator has accused Fine Gael of ‘trying to hijack’ the party’s policies.

Lorraine Higgins with former Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore.
Lorraine Higgins with former Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated: 16.10

AGRICULTURE AND DEFENCE Minister Simon Coveney appears to have started a war of words between the two coalition parties.

Yesterday, junior health minister Kathleen Lynch described Coveney’s comments about potentially going into government with Fianna Fáil after the next general election as “a bit disloyal”.

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins echoed this view when speaking on Today with Seán O’Rourke this morning, saying Coveney had shown “disregard” for the coalition.

She said members of the government “shouldn’t do anything to undermine the relationship between the two parties” as there are enough people outside of the coalition to do that.

Higgins suggested certain politicians are “thinking about their own future rather than the future of the country”.

The Galway-based senator also accused Fine Gael of “looking to hijack a number of Labour policies” that have proved popular with the public such as marriage equality and changes to the USC.

I welcome the fact that Fine Gael are now coming to see world from the Labour party lens… Any time there’s two parties in a coalition, one will try to claim more than the other.

On the same programme, Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty attempted to dispel rumours of a rift between her party and Labour.

She said the parties “work extremely well together” and have a “strong and stable” relationship.

Seanad Abolition Referendums Regina Doherty Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Both Higgins and Doherty agreed it was too soon to be in election mode but had a few words to say on their own preferences for who should run the country.

Higgins said people will have to ask themselves if they want to put Fianna Fáil back in charge of the economy or vote in Sinn Féin who have “let go of 20,000 public service workers in the North”.

Doherty said that a independent-heavy government would lead to instability.

“We’ll end up having elections every few months like we did in the 80s,” the Meath East TD added.

Leadership battle?

This afternoon, Leo Varadkar was asked if he thought Coveney made the comments to get publicity in a private battle between he two to become the next leader of Fine Gael.

“There’s no such battle that I’m aware of,” Varadkar told reporters, adding that he doesn’t think Coveney needs to apologise for the remarks.

The health minister said he is “really pleased to be in government with Labour” and thinks the coalition is a “better government for it”.

Varadkar reiterated the party line that the general election is “over a year away ” and said both parties need to “focus on providing good government rather than speculating”.

Additional reporting: Hugh O’Connell

Originally published: 10.47

‘I find it a bit disloyal’: A Labour minister is NOT happy with Simon Coveney

Labour Senator deletes Facebook page after being told she ‘should have been aborted’

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Órla Ryan

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