Backers of Labour leadership contender Kelly split over entering government

Opinion in Green Party said to be split between those open to FF-FG talks and those opposed

 Duncan Smith: “I don’t think at this point we should go into government, and it doesn’t change the mandate we got in February.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Duncan Smith: “I don’t think at this point we should go into government, and it doesn’t change the mandate we got in February.” Photograph: Alan Betson

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Supporters of Labour leadership contender Alan Kelly are split on whether the party should enter government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the weeks ahead.

Duncan Smith, the recently elected Dublin Fingal TD who helped launch Mr Kelly’s leadership campaign, said he believes Labour should go into opposition. His view contradicts that of Cork East TD Seán Sherlock, another supporter of Mr Kelly, who said Labour should consider entering government.

Mr Smith said: “We will do everything we can in the context of Covid-19 to tackle this crisis, but I don’t think at this point we should go into government, and it doesn’t change the mandate we got in February.”

Mr Kelly, who earlier in the leadership contest with Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said Labour should go into opposition, did not return calls.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said he would not lead Labour into government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but that the party would play its part in helping the country through the coronavirus crisis.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly: The chief executive of Cork County Council said some opponents had decided the outcome before the establishment of an implementation group as proposed by Mr Kelly. Photograph: Dave Meehan
Labour leadership contender Alan Kelly. File photograph: Dave Meehan

The party has six TDs, having lost a seat in February’s general election.

The political focus has shifted to Labour as the conclusion of its leadership contest approaches later this week.

The Green Party, which has 12 Dáil seats, has called for a national unity government. It is understood its TDs will again discuss this week its government talks strategy if its unity government proposal fails.

Some, such as leader Eamon Ryan, are understood to be open to talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, while others are opposed. Opinion between the two options is said to be roughly evenly divided in the Greens.

They have a golden opportunity to bring about their major policy, but the SocDems are missing in action at a time of national crisis

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has also spoken to Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall in recent days.

Between them Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have 72 seats, eight short of a majority. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Monday said he hoped that a “common framework document which would sketch out how a government might work” could be agreed between the two parties by next week.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: “I absolutely believe we will recover from this and we will have better days again,” he said
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said he would not lead Labour into government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

“Independents…wouldn’t be enough, so we will need a third party. So the idea then if we can agree a common framework document is to reach out to Greens, Social Democrats and Labour,” he said.

Smaller parties

Finian McGrath, the outgoing Minister of State for Disability Issues who attends Cabinet, criticised smaller parties, in particular the Social Democrats, for their approach to entering government.

The former Dublin Bay North TD, who did not stand at the general election but will remain a Minister until a new government is formed, said the Sláintercare plan to expand public healthcare favoured by the Social Democrats was being implemented as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

“They have a golden opportunity to bring about their major policy, but the SocDems are missing in action at a time of national crisis.”

A spokeswoman for the Social Democrats said: “We have been very proactive in supporting the Government during this health crisis. We have been talking to everyone across the political spectrum regarding what might or might not be possible, and will continue to offer the support we have been doing all through this crisis.”