Fianna Fáil members vote to block Sinn Féin coalition

Party recommends fielding a candidate in the presidential election next year

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin initially said he would support President Michael D. Higgins if he chose to stand for the office again. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin initially said he would support President Michael D. Higgins if he chose to stand for the office again. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Fianna Fáil members have voted overwhelmingly against entering any coalition government with Sinn Féin.

The party passed a motion at its ard fheis on Friday night calling on all its ard comhairle, leadership and parliamentary party to categorically rule out any such deal with Gerry Adams’ party.

Fianna Fáil members also voted in favour of fielding a candidate in the presidential election.

Proposing the motion against coalition with Sinn Féin, Meath West TD Shane Cassells said it was time to put the prospect to bed once and for all.

He said you do not deal with a serpent by asking it into your bed, adding his party should not be corrupted by “people who leave people in unmarked graves”.

Mr Cassells said: “So some of the apologists for Sinn Féin in our own party would want to wake up and smell the coffee - because in 2011 when we were on our knees these guys were waiting put their boots on our throats.”

Party leader Micheál Martin confirmed he voted in favour of the motion, describing Sinn Féin as undemocratic.

When it was put to him by reporters that he would be willing talk to Sinn Féin to become taoiseach, Mr Martin said he did not agree at all.

Speaking at the ard fheis, the Cork South Central TD said Sinn Féin was undemocratic and had discipline issues that he would worry about.

He also ruled out a confidence and supply arrangement, a suggestion mooted by the party’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan.

Mr Martin also insisted he would not enter coalition with Fine Gael but did not reject a similar arrangement as it has now with the party.

Fianna Fáil is seeking to be the largest party in the next government but would not set a target of how many seats it could secure, he added.

“I do believe that in the aftermath of the next general election no one party will win it in that sense. But I think we can again increase our support quite substantially and be the lead party in the next government. That is our intention.”

He accepted his party was unlikely to win a majority government in the upcoming general election.

More than 4,500 members will gather in the RDS over the next two days with debates on housing, health and justice to be discussed. This is the first ardfheis since the general election in 2016.

Presidential candidate

Voting on motions began on Friday night with agreement that the party should field a candidate in the presidential election scheduled to take place next year.

Mr Martin had previously said he would support President Michael D. Higgins if he chose to run again.

However speaking on Friday, the party leader changed his position slightly and said it will be considered in “the fullest of time”.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been tipped to run but Mr Martin said he did not support Mr Ahern becoming a member of the party again.

He also responded to correspondence received from headquarters on Thursday seeking a distinguished service award for Mr Ahern.

The letter was “mischievous” in nature insisting the awards are for grassroot volunteers, Mr Martin said.

Such recipients have offered their services voluntarily to the party and should not be given to people who have had the honour of serving in office, he added.

Mr Ahern has not been a member of Fianna Fáil since the publication of the Mahon report in 2012.

On the issue of abortion, Fianna Fáil members will be allowed to vote with their conscience regardless of what the ard fheis decides.

There are two conflicting positions to be debated at the conference this weekend.

Mr Martin said he would make his personal position on abortion clear when he sees the report of the Oireachtas all-party committee.

“When I see what has to be put before the people I will be making my position clear,” he said, reiterating that there should be a referendum.

On housing, Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil was running out of patience with the Government’s inaction on the problem.

He stressed the need for “results on this issue in the coming months and years”, adding: “Year after year, it is excuse after excuse.”