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Opposition 'still an option' for Labour, chiefs believe

Labour’s National Council gives its go-ahead for coalition talks with FG – but says it won’t fly straight into government.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has been reminded that his party still has the option of entering opposition, as talks between his team and that of Enda Kenny continue.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has been reminded that his party still has the option of entering opposition, as talks between his team and that of Enda Kenny continue.

SENIOR FIGURES within Labour have given their approval for the party to proceed into negotiation talks with Fine Gael – but have indicated that a coalition with Fine Gael is not a fait accompli.

Leader Eamon Gilmore last night met the party’s Central Council – a body including parliamentarians, senior staff and reps from its constituency bodies – to get its formal approval for talks with Fine Gael, who between them boast 111 seats of the next Dáil.

But the approval came with a strong provisio, the Irish Independent reports this morning, that going into power – a move that had been widely anticipated well before the election – was not the party’s sole option for the 31st Dáil.

It could, they believed, still allow Fine Gael to stage a solo run for power with the support of an independent group – or, perhaps, allow Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to hammer out a broad agreement allowing the latter to support the government from the opposition benches with certain policy parameters.

It’s known that some within the party are wary of the electoral fates that struck the last two junior coalition partners – with both the Progressive Democrats and Green Party being hammered after going into power.

Others believe a stint as the largest opposition party would solidify Labour’s electoral gains, and stand as a platform for potential expansion next time out – with the party then keen to seek an overall majority.

The meeting of the 60-strong Labour council – which took place in the Radisson Hotel on Golden Lane in Dublin, adjoining the building used as the party’s election HQ – was required under party rules in order for coalition talks to proceed.

Yesterday both Gilmore and FG leader Enda Kenny had appointed their negotiating teams; the former has sent Pat Rabbitte, Brendan Howlin and Joan Burton into talks, while Kenny sent Michael Noonan, Phil Hogan and Alan Shatter.

Labour’s team also includes Dr Colm O’Reardon, the party’s policy director, while Fine Gael’s includes former Forfás chief economist Andrew McDowell.

Gilmore and Kenny also met in the ministerial corridor at Leinster House, a facility the Irish Times says was made available by incumbent Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

The talks between the two negotiating sides will continue this morning, but will likely pause for the afternoon to allow the Labour side attend the first meeting of Labour’s new Parliamentary Party.

RTÉ says a deal, if one is to be struck between the parties, is hoped to be completed before the weekend in order for Labour to ratify it at a specially-convened party convention.

Poll: What’s your preferred option for the next Government?

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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