Defeated Sinn Féin MEP candidate Lynn Boylan has called for co-operation with other left-wing parties in future, saying that parties on the left were “handing seats over the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil” because they were competing with each other.
In the first public signal of a debate that is likely to rage within the party over the coming months, Ms Boylan – who, at the recent election lost the European Parliament seat in Dublin she had held for the past five years – also said that there is a “conversation to be had” about the party’s position on entering government after the next election.
Her comments come ahead of a Sinn Féin ard comhairle meeting this weekend that is likely to discuss the party’s disastrous showing in the local and European elections a fortnight ago.
Ms Boylan said that left-wing parties could “do so much better” if they worked together. “It’s not about selling out on your ideas, on your ideology,” she said. “We’ve proved in the European Parliament we can work together even though we don’t agree on everything in a left-wing group.
“Yes I’m a republican, I’m a united Irelander, but I am a left-wing activist and what I would love – the lessons from this – is that the left, if we can just get some sort of co-ordination, even just around voting strategically, we can maximise the number of elected reps the left returns, as opposed to actually handing seats over to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil because we’re fighting with each other,” she said.
Ms Boylan said that left-wing groups had co-operated on the Right to Water campaign. “That’s why we were able to stop water charges – it’s because the left came together and worked together. We just need to go back and do that again.”
She added that if left-wing parties co-operate they can “show the tangible benefits to more people, that when you vote left, your life improves.”
But currently, she said, “It’s the same political parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, keep getting back in.”
Ms Boylan made her comments in a video posted on Twitter, but later elaborated on them to The Irish Times.
Asked if she was advocating a change in the party’s position on entering government after the next election, she replied: “That’s all a conversation to be had.”
Sinn Féin ruled out participating in a government led by Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil prior to the last general election. However, it has since changed its position, and now says that it will talk to all parties after the election. Party leader Mary Lou McDonald confirmed the party’s position remained unchanged after the election, telling RTÉ her party would “talk to everybody”.
“That means Independents, it means Greens, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael . . . because I think that is what grown-ups do,” she said.
However, this position may come under pressure as Sinn Féin reacts to the election results which saw it lose two of its three MEP seats in the South and half of its local authority seats.
The Waterford TD David Cullinane said that the party had always said it wanted to co-operate with other left-wing parties.
“Co-operation among progressive voices is something we were already in favour of,” he said.
The party would talk to everyone after an election, he said, adding: “I don’t believe it’s possible to agree a programme for government with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael – but I’ve no problem talking to other parties.”
The Sinn Féin ard comhairle meets on Saturday to begin what is likely to be a painful post-mortem after the elections.
A spokeswoman said that the party would go through the results by each local electoral area over the coming months, but that the ard comhairle would have a general discussion this weekend.