Labour’s Sean Sherlock against coalition deal with Fine Gael

TD says Labour members he contacted believe party should regroup in opposition

Labour TD Sean Sherlock said he had taken soundings on a daily basis from Labour Party members  and the clear view was the party should regroup in opposition rather than enter any coalition arrangement. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Labour TD Sean Sherlock said he had taken soundings on a daily basis from Labour Party members and the clear view was the party should regroup in opposition rather than enter any coalition arrangement. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A Labour TD has come out strongly against any move to re-enter coalition with Fine Gael to break the current impasse, saying he believed the party did not receive any such mandate from the electorate in the general election and it should instead move to the opposition benches.

Cork East TD Sean Sherlock said Fine Gael had made inquiries with individual Labour TDs with a view to garnering support for their minority government, but he did not believe entering a coalition arrangement was the best option for Labour at this moment.

“Where Labour is at the moment is that there is a certain school of thought within Labour that the way for us to become relevant again, if you will, is for us to become part of the make-up of a government. I don’t at this juncture subscribe to that view,” said Mr Sherlock.

“I think psychologically when I won my seat in Cork East, it was with a view to going back into opposition and putting the party first, because for the last five years we put the country first and I don’t think we received a mandate from the people ,” he told Cork’s C103 FM.

Taking soundings

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Sherlock said he had taken soundings on a daily basis from Labour Party members through social media since the general election, and the clear view was that the party should regroup in opposition rather than enter any coalition arrangement.

“Any politician worth his salt wants to be in government and I am no different in that regard, but I have to be mindful what our members are saying and they are clearly of the view that going into government is not the right strategy for Labour at this point.

“They believe that having put the country first for the past five years, it is time now to put the party first ... if Labour were go to into government now, it would have to be with the blessing of the membership of the party - and I believe the membership are not of a mind to go into government.”

Mr Sherlock said he fully recognised no one wants another general election, and while he was not aware of any formal offer from Fine Gael to Labour, he believed attention should not be focused solely on the Labour Party when others could play a part in forming a government.

“Why should Labour feel an obligation to go into government when Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are both clearly absenting themselves from their responsibilities when they went out and campaigned to offer an alternative government to the Fine Gael-Labour coalition?”

Scepticism

Mr Sherlock said he would wait and see what transpires in terms of what support Fianna Fáil would offer any minority Fine Gael-led coalition with Independents, but given Fianna Fáil’s record in the past, he would be sceptical about how long such a coalition arrangement could last.

“Fianna Fáil have a made the calculation that if there is an election within the next number of weeks, Fianna Fáil could be blamed for triggering it, so they would prefer to wait for another eight or 12 months by providing cover for Fine Gael and the Independents.

“That would get them off the hook and then they could pull the plug somewhere down the line on an issue of their choosing in the belief they will come back with more seats than Fine Gael in the subsequent general election, so I would be sceptical about how sustainable such a deal would be.”

Mr Sherlock was the only Labour TD in Cork to retain his seat and he is only one of two elected public representatives that the party has in Cork city or county after Labour lost all seven of its city councillors and lost five of its seven county councillors in the 2014 local elections.

Since then, Labour poll-topper in Fermoy, Cllr Noel McCarthy, defected from Labour to become an Independent, and subsequently joined Fine Gael and ran for the party in Cork East in the general election but failed to take a seat.