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Labour reckons its incredibly fabulous candidates can win 36 seats

Ministers are in confident mood as the party’s one-day conference gets underway in Mullingar.

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BRENDAN HOWLIN HAS said Labour’s ambition is to win 36 seats in the general election.

The Public Expenditure Minister was speaking as Labour’s one-day conference gets underway in Mullingar, Co Westmeath today.

Howlin and Environment Minister Alan Kelly were in bullish mood this morning, insisting that every single Labour candidate running is worthy of election.

“We’ve 36 candidates, our ambition is to have 36 seats,” Howlin told the media.

That’s the long and the short of it. Every single candidate we have in the field is worthy of election and we’ll work might and main, every one of us, to ensure that we return every one of them because they’re worth the effort.

Kelly, who is Labour’s director of elections, said the party will be competitive in every single constituency where it is running candidates, dismissing opinion polls which have Labour on between 6% and 9%.

“You know you can quote opinion polls and all of that – we have our own work done – but our candidates are not just incredible candidates, but they’re candidates who have performed in their own communities,” Kelly insisted.

Asked to explain why there is a disparity between national opinion polls and the party’s own internal data, Kelly claimed the quality of candidates will make the difference.

“It’s very simple, it’s that when you put down the suite of candidates that we have, if you put Lorraine Higgins’s name down [Galway East] or Pamela Kearns’s name on a ballot paper [Dublin South-West], it’s a very different result that you get and that’s the reason why,” he said.

Our quality of candidates, we’ve incredible candidates, we’ve incredible people in the Dáil and Seanad Éireann and candidates that are out there and they’re picked deliberately. They’re fabulous candidates and we believe they’ll deliver and that’s the reason there’s a difference.

Neither minister would be drawn on the minimum number of seats Labour will need to re-enter government with Fine Gael.

“We have no intention of getting 10 seats. What if we got no seats? And what if we won 36 seats?” Howlin said.

We are going to win a number of seats that will confound most pundits. We’ve a very active campaign, we’ve a tremendous platform and, most of all, we’ve the best slate of candidates.

On the date of the election, Kelly said he believed all elections should be on Friday but said the date would be “decided by government”.

There is speculation that the vote could now be held on Thursday, 25 February and not Friday, 26 February, as is widely expected in political circles.

Asked if “decided by government” means that Taoiseach Enda Kenny – who has sole discretion on selecting the date – will need Labour’s approval, Kelly said:

After coming through what we’ve come through over the last five years of government, we’re going to agree on a date.

He insisted there would not be a row over the date of the election. Meanwhile, Howlin joked that if the election is on Friday “we’ll all vote on the Thursday”.

Read: Ex-Labour senator claims he was told to come up with ‘list of women’ for state boards

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Hugh O'Connell

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