Fianna Fáil TDs told to stop talking about coalition with SF

Micheál Martin issues warning amid concerns over frightening middle-ground voters

Micheál Martin has strongly warned his TDs not to openly discuss a future coalition with Sinn Féin. The Fianna Fáil leader upbraided a number of his deputies for openly discussing the prospect of a deal with Gerry Adams's party after the next election.

A number of party TDs recently said they were open to such a coalition after the next election, in defiance of their party leader’s long-standing stance against Sinn Féin.

Mr Martin has spoken to the deputies individually, and told them they should not open the possibility of such an alliance in public because it would frighten off middle-ground voters who hover between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Mr Martin this week repeated his rejection of a Sinn Féin-Fianna Fáil government and sources said he has warned his TDs about frightening the “soft Fine Gael vote” and told them to be careful in their public comments.


Junior party

Sinn Féin, which has indicated it is open to being the junior party in a coalition, this week accused Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of being “arrogant” in ruling them out as partners.

Mr Martin said, “Fianna Fáil’s established policy on Sinn Féin is that it is unfit for government in Dublin and we will oppose any and all efforts by them to get into government.”

He has also conveyed his message to stop speaking out about such a coalition to TDs in recent days and weeks, as Fianna Fáil prepares for its think-in ahead of the return of the Dáil.

It is also understood Mr Martin said that TDs speaking out of line on a Sinn Féin coalition would be used by Fine Gael to attack Fianna Fáil, adding that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s party are Fianna Fáil’s main rivals at the next election.

Mr Martin is also understood to have said it is critical for Fianna Fáil to overturn Fine Gael's lead in terms of the number of Dáil seats it holds to allow it form a government with smaller parties, such as the Social Democrats, the Greens and possibly some Independent TDs. Such a government would likely be pitched as a social democratic, centre-left administration.

More seats

Some Fianna Fáil sources described Mr Martin’s preferred government option as a “rainbow coalition on steroids”.

One source said Mr Martin emphasised this strategy is entirely dependent on Fianna Fáil emerging with more seats than Fine Gael. At the last election, Fianna Fáil won 44 seats compared to Fine Gael’s 50. Fianna Fáil strategists are aiming for 55 seats or more, with Mr Varadkar aiming for 60 seats next time out.

Sources in both parties expect the margin of difference between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to be tight.

If Mr Martin is successful in beating Mr Varadkar when it comes to Dáil seats but falls short of a majority coalition, Fianna Fáil believes Fine Gael will have to enter into a confidence-and-supply deal.

The Fianna Fáil leader has also privately said that minority governments will be a regular feature in Irish politics.

His private views are at odds with his recent public statements that he would consider a grand coalition with Fine Gael, if Fianna Fáil were the larger party.

He also held open the possibility of seeking the support of Sinn Féin in a minority government deal, but Mary Lou McDonald ruled this out.