Belfast Telegraph

Labour insists it will not be wooed easily

Trying to sell a coalition deal to Irish Labour party members emboldened by record election gains may well be a harder nut to crack than agreeing a programme for government.

Most Fine Gael frontbenchers believe a deal can be sealed quickly, but their opposite numbers in Labour are more reticent to share a ministerial Mercedes.

The issues that had them slugging it out on the campaign trail have become more manageable, according to sources in both parties. And the new reality in the EU that the interest rates on the bailout must fall takes the sting out of the spending cuts-versus-tax argument for reducing the budget deficit.

During the election campaign, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said any reduction in child benefit was a deal-breaker. But Fine Gael believes there can be compromise on social welfare.

Public sector reform, water charges, differences on pensions can all be sorted out by an attitude of “where there's a will, there's a way”, a senior Fine Gaeler said last night.

There are other differences, of course, but when the Republic is fighting for its economic sovereignty, what seemed like enormous differences a month ago can be more easily resolved.

Even as votes are being recounted, the pain of the election has been anaesthetised by the prospect of power. Enda Kenny's trips to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso to stress the problems caused by the punitive interest rates paid dividends.

Mr Barroso assured Mr Kenny and his party that the EU elite would be following the election campaign closely — and from that they realised interest rates had to be cut.

A deal is expected to be put to a special conference of the Labour Party for approval in Dublin on Sunday.



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