Stagg says Labour link-up with Sinn Féin possible

Party has mandate since embracing democratic politics, says Labour chief whip

 Emmet Stagg:  “I could foresee Sinn Féin and the Labour Party joining together in some form”

Emmet Stagg: “I could foresee Sinn Féin and the Labour Party joining together in some form”

Sat, Aug 24, 2013, 01:00

Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg has said he can foresee his party linking up in a coalition government, or in some other way, with Sinn Féin sometime in the future.

He is the first leading figure in the party to have said publicly that such an arrangement with Sinn Féin may be a possibility.

Mr Stagg said Sinn Féin had moved on from its association with violence, had embraced democratic politics and now had a mandate.

“I am very happy that Sinn Féin has stopped killing people and has taken up normal politics. They have done that and are entitled to the respect that their mandate gives them.”

On a possible arrangement in the future, Mr Stagg said: “I could foresee Sinn Féin and the Labour Party joining together in some form. There is no reason to believe that that would not be the case, particularly if the social democrats in Sinn Féin continue to hold the upper hand.

“They are a broad church [like any party but] I would see that as a real possibility in the future.”

He said that his own party had already experienced such a merger when a breakaway of Sinn Féin, the Workers’ Party, was successfully subsumed into the Labour Party.

Mr Stagg made his comments in the context of arguments being made in recent weeks for a Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil coalition after the next election.

Such an arrangement was suggested by former Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke at the Carleton Summer School in Co Tyrone earlier this month.

A similar argument is expected to be made tomorrow by sports broadcaster and Fine Gael activist Bill O’Herlihy when he delivers the annual Michael Collins commemoration address in Béal na Bláth in west Cork.

A TD for Kildare North, Mr Stagg said there was an artificial situation in Ireland where there were two slightly conservative parties in dominant positions.

He said he had long believed that the normalisation of Irish politics would be a distinction between right and left.

FF vs FG
Meanwhile, Brian Hayes of Fine Gael and Michael McGrath of Fianna Fáil have both indicated strongly they would not be in favour of a coalition between the two parties.

Mr Hayes, the Minister of State for Finance, said his party’s primary strategic objective would be to win a second term with Labour and keep Fianna Fáil from power for at least a decade.

For his part, Mr McGrath said that the electorate will not have forgiven Fianna Fáil sufficiently by the time of the next election to allow it return to government.

He said the party’s focus should be on carving out a distinct identity from Fine Gael in terms of its approach to economic management.