McDonald open to Sinn Féin being junior coalition partner

Party would not enter government for ‘cheap thrill of headlines’, says deputy leader

Mary Lou McDonald outside Leinster House: “We can only go into government when we are confident that we are in a position to deliver.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Mary Lou McDonald outside Leinster House: “We can only go into government when we are confident that we are in a position to deliver.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald has raised the prospect that Sinn Féin could take part in the next coalition government as the junior partner, saying she wants the party to be in power.

The move by the Dublin Central TD is significant, since it marks a shift from the previous Sinn Féin position that it would only take office if it was the dominant party.

However, the deputy leader, widely tipped to succeed Gerry Adams as party president, said Sinn Féin must have a “conversation” before the next election about taking up the secondary role.

The option of taking up as the smaller party in a coalition would, she said, be considered in Sinn Féin’s ongoing review of strategy for the next decade.

Speaking on The Irish Times Inside Politics podcast, Ms McDonald also said anyone entering government must be pragmatic about difficult decisions that must be made.

Sinn Féin’s problem with the difficult decisions taken by successive governments in the Republic, she said, is that the “tough decision is always the decision that hurts the little guy”.

“Why can’t we make some tough decisions that reach up into the upper echelons of society?”

Sold out

She defended Sinn Féin’s past declarations that it would enter power only as the major force in a coalition.

“People are understandably anxious when they look at the experience of other political parties that have gone into coalition and have either, in the minds of some, ‘sold out’ or left their politics outside the cabinet meeting room or have just not measured up or not performed,” she said. “We are not in the business of doing any of those things.”

The “ideal scenario” for the party is to hold the larger number of seats in a coalition, Ms McDonald said. Asked if she would consider entering power as a junior partner, she said: “You are right. That is a conversation that we need to be having between now and the next election.

“I want us to be in government, I believe we will be in government in the South. We won’t be in government for the sake of it. It won’t be personal careerism or for the cheap thrill of headlines or the history-making moments of it.

“We can only go into government when we are confident that we are in a position to deliver. And how will we know that we’re delivering? I’ll know very quickly when I go back into my home area. We have to live up to expectations that would be there.”