Taking the plunge: McDonald wants full coalition deal for Sinn Féin

Minority governments do not serve Ireland’s needs, claims deputy party leader

Mary Lou McDonald: “You either take the plunge and you go into government or you don’t.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Mary Lou McDonald: “You either take the plunge and you go into government or you don’t.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, has rejected the prospect of the party supporting a minority government from the sidelines after the next general election and confirmed that it wants to be a full member of a coalition administration.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms McDonald was also highly critical of the current confidence-and-supply arrangement, which she described as designed to entirely suit Fianna Fáil.

It comes after the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, while ruling out a coalition with Sinn Féin, left open the prospect of a confidence-and-supply deal with Ms McDonald’s party after the next election.

But the Dublin Central TD, who is widely tipped to succeed Gerry Adams as Sinn Féin’s leader, said: “You either take the plunge and you go into government or you don’t.”

Sinn Féin has moved in recent months to distance itself from its previous position that it would enter government only as the lead party in a coalition, so paving the way for it to be a junior party.

As she is Sinn Féin’s probable future leader, and could succeed Mr Adams by the time of the next election, Ms McDonald’s views are likely to accord with those of the party as a whole.

Dealing with Brexit

She said that she is “not in favour” of confidence-and-supply deals and added that Sinn Féin had taken no decisions about future governmental arrangements or even considered minority-government deals. Minority governments, she argued, “do not serve the needs of the country and will not serve the needs of the country as we deal with Brexit”.

“The current arrangement in the Dáil, where Fianna Fáil are in government and opposition at the same time, is the politics of the slow bicycle race. I don’t think confidence-and-supply works. It was born of necessity and of Fianna Fáil’s particular needs to prevent Sinn Féin being the main party of opposition.

“Our first task is to go before the electorate. You can only be part of a government if you achieve a sufficient mandate,” Ms McDonald said, adding that Sinn Féin will talk to everyone after an election.

Any coalition would then be a “matter of discussion” and depend on the agreement of a “robust, transformative and ambitious” programme for government.

“Then, crucially, can we only ask the party itself,” she said, but added: “We want to be in government.”

Critically, she said any form of government arrangement involving Sinn Féin would have to be ratified by a special ardfheis, which further reduces the chances of a confidence-and-supply deal.

Fianna Fáil alliance

Earlier this week Mr Martin also declined to rule out entering coalition with Fine Gael if Fianna Fáil were the senior partner. Senior Sinn Féin figures believe Mr Martin is prompting a debate within his party that could eventually lead to an alliance with Sinn Féin.

Mr Martin has consistently rejected the prospect of a coalition with Ms McDonald’s party, but some of his TDs privately say they would favour such an alliance over one with Fine Gael.

Ms McDonald criticised both Mr Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as “very arrogant” in ruling out coalitions with Sinn Féin. She said the party will enter the next election with the intention of securing the biggest mandate to be in government, including being the lead party.

“We will set out all our plans, and we are ready to be part of a government.”