Belfast Telegraph

Coughlan will visit US despite bid

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan will take part in a jobs and education mission to the United States despite Fine Gael's attempts to force her to attend the Dail, it has been disclosed.

The Government struck a deal with Labour over voting arrangements and narrowly avoided heaping further pressure on the coalition's slim majority.

Mrs Coughlan, Education Minister, was facing the prospect of cancelling the US trip after Fine Gael pulled the plug on paired voting - a tactic ministers branded unpatriotic.

Labour's Ruairi Quinn stepped in allowing the Tanaiste to travel and claimed the meetings had significant job creation potential.

Mr Quinn, who will pair with the Tanaiste and not vote in the Dail on Wednesday, said it was a one-off pact.

"The Labour Party remains absolutely committed to earliest possible removal of Fianna Fail from office," he said.

"This Government is incapable of leading this country to economic recovery and the sooner they recognise this and call a general election the better for our people."

Mr Quinn also claimed the controversy could have been avoided if the Tanaiste had extended the normal courtesy of contacting opposition education spokespeople to explain her absence.

Earlier, Mrs Coughlan accused Fine Gael of embarrassing the country with a tactic sure to strain the already slim coalition majority.

The main Opposition party are planning to push for three outstanding by-elections to be held and vowed to leave the Tanaiste without a pair if she did not attend the Dail.

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