National unity government idea should be examined, says McDonald

Green party proposal had been given cool reception by main parties but SF now open to idea

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald TD and Louise O’Reilly TD speaking to media outside Government Buildings, Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald TD and Louise O’Reilly TD speaking to media outside Government Buildings, Dublin on Monday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the idea of a national unity government to deal with the coronavirus crisis should be examined.

The Green Party and others, such as Fianna Fáil frontbench member John Lahart, have proposed that such a government temporarily take office to steer the country through the coming months.

The proposal has thus far been given a cool reception by the leaderships of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and previously Sinn Féin but Ms McDonald, in her latest comments, has opened the door to discussing the idea. However, she still expressed some doubts.

The Dublin Central TD was asked about a government of national unity on Today FM on Friday morning and said: “We need to look at every option. The issue with a national unity government is how exactly would it work and would it be coherent enough to respond quickly.

“That is the concern but yes there is merit of course in all of the political forces coming together because we all represent different sections of our people, whatever our views on other political matters.

“I think we can all agree that we want to do everything possible to keep our families and our communities safe, to save jobs where we can but certainly to ensure that people have proper income supports so they can get by and come out of this crisis in one piece.

“It is one of the options on the table. I still think a better option would be a government for change that reflects the outcome of the last election but I don’t hold all of the cards in this and my concern and our concern at this time is to do the right thing for people and certainly that unity government option needs to be looked at, absolutely.”

Ms McDonald also said she has not given up on the possibility of Sinn Féin being in government but stressed issue in the “here and now” is getting the country through the current coronavirus, also known as Covid-19crisis.

“I know that people voted for change. I am really conscious that change needs to be delivered and we are determined to achieve that but in the immediacy of the here and now this is now about protecting, having people’s backs in what is a very difficult situation.”

Green deputy leader Catherine Martin said she is glad her party’s “proposal of unity government is being considered by other political parties now”.

“We need unity of focus in this unprecedented health crisis,” the Dublin Rathdown TD said.