“I will not put Fianna Fáil back in government. Now is there any part of that you don't understand?” - Pat Rabbitte, 8 January 2007 on Questions and Answers
PLUS Bertie's speech at the opening of Leas Cross 23 April, 1998
A central question in the election campaign is whether the Labour party would go back into government with Fianna Fáil if neither coalition option secures an overall majority.
Pat Rabbitte secured the leadership of the Labour party in 2002 on the commitment that he would never lead Labour into government with Fianna Fáil. Recently, as the opinion polls are suggesting the election outcome might well give rise to another Fianna Fáil-Labour government, Pat Rabbitte has been asked to state his position.
In a series of interviews he has equivocated interminably. But on Questions and Answers on Monday 8 January he was eventually cornered by presenter John Bowman and finally he stated: “I will not put Fianna Fáil back in government. Now is there any part of that you don't understand?”
But the evasions and equivocations that led up to that final categorical assertion are illuminating in his preference to leave his options open, while appearing not to leave his options open.
In subsequent interviews, notably on the RTÉ radio programme This Week and in an interview in the Irish Independent, he reverted to obfuscation. For this reason it is relevant to quote in full the exchanges that led up to his categorical statement ruling out Fianna Fáil. We reproduce it here, in part, to show that the quotation is not being taken out of context. The exchange involved Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, who was also a participant on the programme.
John Bowman: “You can say the same Pat [ie that you would support Fianna Fáil should the numbers require it].
Pat Rabbitte: “Of course I could but I won't.”
John Bowman: “You didn't say you won't, you said you had no intention. You might have no intention now but when the figures [election results] come in, you'll be placed in a awful dilemma. Would you do the statesman-like thing and save the country from Sinn Féin by adding Labour's votes to Fianna Fail's?”
Pat Rabbitte: “That's a very plausible argument, John, and thank you very much for reminding me of it. But I have made it patently clear it is my purpose not to replace just one of the parties in government at the moment but to replace both of them.”
John Bowman: “That's your purpose but if it didn't happen what would your choice be?”
Pat Rabbitte:“There are a great many people out there who want a government that will address and tackle the issues that this government over 10 years neglected and they are trying to say that they are going to do in 10 weeks what they didn't do in 10 years. There are so many people out there who get up at 6.30 in the morning to pay their taxes, to commute long distances to work, who are concerned about affordable housing, who are concerned about childcare, who are concerned about the hospital services [John Bowman tries unsuccessfully here to head him off], who are worried about rising prices and mounting mortgages...”
John Bowman: “The question is...
Dermot Ahern: “Can I ask you a question [directed at Pat Rabbitte]?”
John Bowman: “I am chairman here. I think it is the same question by the way.”
Dermot Ahern: “Every week in the Dáil, Pat, when you or Fine Gael have a Private Members motion, you don't say to Sinn Féin when they go through the lobbies supporting your...”
John Bowman: “He hasn't answered the central question...”
Pat Rabbitte: “I cannot answer all these questions, let me answer [Dermot Ahern's question].”
(Cross talk here as John Bowman tries to repeat his question which Pat Rabbitte had dodged.)
Pat Rabbitte: “When Dermot Ahern goes into opposition, he thinks he might like a job like yours [John Bowman's job], so let's give him some experience. Dermot, I want to answer the question. Of course that is a perfectly reasonable perspective. No Taoiseach could refuse somebody who wants to vote for him. That isn't the point. The net point is what happens the day after the vote. You are dependent.”
Dermot Ahern: “Exactly as happened in 1997.”
Pat Rabbitte: “They were the gene pool.”
Dermot Ahern: “No they weren't.”
John Bowman: “If the electorate does not return either coalition and Fianna Fáil and Labour have the numbers, would you accept the democratic will of the Labour Party at conference, which is what will happen, to join Fianna Fáil in government?”
Pat Rabbitte: “It will not happen. If you think for one moment that a Labour Party conference is going to rush to defeat a recommendation from the leader of the Labour Party to put Fianna Fáil back in government you are living in cloud cuckoo land.”
John Bowman: “If they did, would you lead the Labour Party still?”
Pat Rabbitte: “It won't happen. Because I am the one who is in touch with the heart of the Labour Party. I have 80 per cent...”
John Bowman: “That is true but if that were to fail all bets are off. You got 80 per cent to try a run with Fine Gael.”
Pat Rabbitte: “It is a matter for the leader to put a recommendation to conference and I will put a recommendation to conference if the situation arises that is entirely consistent with my position which is that I will not put Fianna Fáil back in government. Now is there any part of that you don't understand?”
Remarks by An Taoiseach Mr Bertie Ahern TD at the official opening of Leas Cross nursing home in Swords on Thursday 23 April 1998
‘Proprietors John and Genevieve Ahern, Matron Maureen Johnson, Clare Foley, members of staff, residents, very distinguished guests.
I am delighted to have been invited along here today to the wonderful new nursing home, here in Leas Cross, which John and Genevieve have established. I know that when they set out in the early days of this project to plan the details and outlined the services they determined to provide and establishment of the highest nursing standards, in the most comfortable and pleasant surroundings. And as a far as the human eye can see, they have certainly succeeded in that.
Tremendous planning went into every aspect of the facilities and services here in Leas Cross, with residential care for 40 residents in single- and double-room accommodation. Both inside and outside in the beautiful landscaped gardens, all areas are wheelchair accessible, and special care was taken to provide ample leisure and recreational space for all who reside here.
The heart of this nursing home is its patients, and so it is of paramount importance that highly qualified staff are retained to look after all their needs, and I know that has been done.
Great care has been taken to ensure that medical, nursing and various professional therapists are available for residents, with great stress being put on each person's individual needs.
Care, comfort, peace and security are key objectives of this establishment, and in the tranquil rural surroundings here, you could easily forget that the capital of Fingal, Swords, is just five minutes away.
With your residential and day-care patients, Leas Cross will be an extremely active and busy nursing home. I wish all the residents and staff every happiness in living and working here in harmony and great consideration for each other.
I compliment John and Genevieve for their great enterprise in proceeding with this major project, and completing it to such a very high standards, it does you great credit indeed, and I wish you every success with your investment.
I have great pleasure now in declaring Leas Cross nursing home officially open.”