Deputy Prime Minister Mary Coughlan

Irish education minister Mary Coughlan flies out to America today after a political controversy that showed deep division between the two opposition parties in Ireland, Labor and Fine Gael.

Fine Gael had originally refused to allow a ‘pair’ for Coughlan who is attending  events sin Chicago, Boston and St.Louis aimed at bringing more U.S. students to ireland.

The main opposition party had refused to pair up a member with her who would not have voted in the parliament on legislation while she was away.

However, the Labor Party disagreed with the Fine Gale decision and offered Coughlan a pair leading to angry words between Labor and Fine Gael.

Fine Gael had claimed that Coughlan knew about the American trip before she agreed to take questions on Wednesday in the parliament and was intent on skipping the question time where tough issues were expected to be raised.

Fianan Fail denied that allegation and accused Fine Gael of a lack of patriotism and interfering with job creation efforts abroad.

But the real story was the Labor Party agreeing to the pair, a sign that they will no longer act in lockstep with Fine Gael. One recent opinion poll has shown Labor ahead of Fine Gael for the first  time ever.

Fine Gael education spokesman Fergus O’Dowd  had strong words for Labor.

"I’m very surprised that Labour have manoeuvred, or been manoeuvred, into a position of letting Fianna Fáil off the hook in the Dáil. It is clear to me now that the only party guaranteed not to do a deal with Fianna Fáil is Fine Gael."

Labor spokesman Quinn defended the  intervention saying that though he wanted rid of th. "As a former Minister for Enterprise, I have led missions such as this and I know the potential they can have to deliver jobs. There will be other ways of taking out this Government but not at the expense of the prospect for jobs in the education sector."