Enda Kenny does not see FG-SF coalition ‘in near future’

Mary Lou McDonald raised prospect of SF in government as a junior coalition partner

Mary Lou McDonald: said she wanted Sinn Féin to be in government, but said this would only happen if the party could deliver on its policies

Mary Lou McDonald: said she wanted Sinn Féin to be in government, but said this would only happen if the party could deliver on its policies

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has declined to rule out a possible Fine Gael-Sinn Féin coalition, but said he did not envisage such a scenario arising in the near future.

Mr Kenny was reacting to remarks from Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who this week raised the prospect of the party entering government after the next election as a junior coalition partner.

Ms McDonald’s comments to The Irish Times were significant since they marked a shift from the previous Sinn Féin position that it would only take office if it was the dominant party.

However, the Dublin Central TD, widely tipped to take over from Gerry Adams as party president, said Sinn Féin must have a “conversation” before the next election about taking up the secondary role.

It was met with a mixed reaction from other parties. A spokesman for Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said his position had not changed since he had ruled out entering government with Sinn Féin before the last election. Others in his party were not as emphatic, however, and some TDs left the prospect of a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin coalition open.

A spokesman for Labour leader Brendan Howlin also declined to rule it out, but said Labour would have difficulty with Sinn Féin’s economic policies and “history”.

Inside Politics with Leo Varadkar

Mr Kenny was repeatedly asked about Ms McDonald’s comments at a briefing with political correspondents.

Seeking office

The Taoiseach said he was glad to see Sinn Féin express an interest in seeking office and “beginning to realise that in order to get things done you need to be there”.

He said he did not see a Fine Gael-Sinn Féin coalition arising in the short term, but declined to rule it out in future. He said he ruled out entering government with Fianna Fáil before the last election. Mr Kenny, however, then offered Mr Martin a full Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition.

“I said I wouldn’t do business with Fianna Fáil so, depending on the result you gave as a member of the electorate, politicians have to work with the result,” the Taoiseach said.

In the interview Ms McDonald said she wanted Sinn Féin to be in government but said this would only happen if the party could deliver on its policies. It would not enter coalition for “personal careerism or for the cheap thrill of headlines or the history-making moments of it”.

Despite Mr Martin’s position on a deal with Sinn Féin, others in Fianna Fáil did not rule out a possible coalition.

Galway West’s Eamon Ó Cúiv, while calling such discussions “idle speculation”, said “never say yes, or never say no”.

“As the fella says, with the way the world is at the moment, who’d put a bet against anything?”

Dáil arithmetic

Another Fianna Fáil TD, Louth’s Declan Breathnach, said it would be incumbent on all parties to form a government depending on the Dáil arithmetic after the next general election.

“My initial view would be that they still have a way to go, but maybe a spell in government would open the door to the realities of life in government.

“If the numbers fall out whatever way, it will be on every party to form a government,” Mr Breathnach said.