Second election cannot be ruled out, says Martin
Plan to discount coalition with SF taken by FF members as path to talks with FG and Greens
Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil: “The economic platform Sinn Féin put forward before the election was irreconcilable with Fianna Fáil’s, particularly on the enterprise agenda and also in terms of financial sustainability.” Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said a second general election in 2020 cannot be ruled out following the uncertain outcome of the poll on Saturday.
On Thursday, his party backed Mr Martin’s plan to reject any coalition with Sinn Féin and to pursue talks with other parties – widely received by his own TDs as an effort to negotiate a coalition involving Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens.
However, he said that in a volatile atmosphere and with a fragmented political system, it would be very difficult for any party to form a government.
“We have to appreciate the changed environment and the country and its people need a government that can radically change.
“When I think in terms of the future I can’t be certain how this is going to work out. It’s going to be very difficult. I would not rule out another general election,” he said.
Last night, Mr Martin said if a government was formed it would have to be a very “radical” one that would be capable of delivering results on housing, health, climate change and rural imbalance.
The party leader received what he called unanimous support for a strategy to seek to form a government without participation from Sinn Féin. Setting out his aim, he told RTÉ News: “Can a government be formed that is radical that will really deal with housing as an emergency, that will really deal with the health services to alleviate the pressures?”
He added: “And the government that [may be] formed has to be sustainable and has to deliver the policies on a solid platform.”
Mr Martin was speaking after a four-hour parliamentary party meeting attended by a reduced contingent of TDs, 38 in all. He said the issue of his own leadership had not arisen and there was unanimous backing for the approach he recommended not to enter any coalition arrangement with Sinn Féin. He argued strongly at the lengthy meeting that Fianna Fáil could not “stand on the sidelines” and there was an obligation on it to lead a government.
“The economic platform Sinn Féin put forward before the election was irreconcilable with Fianna Fáil’s, particularly on the enterprise agenda and also in terms of financial sustainability,” he contended afterwards.
He told deputies that, unlike Fine Gael, it was not Fianna Fáil’s intention to enter opposition, rather to try and lead a new government comprised of like-minded parties.
A number of Fianna Fáil deputies, speaking on the basis of anonymity, said that having ruled out Sinn Féin, the only possible eventuality would be a coalition involving Fianna Fáíl, Fine Gael and the Green party.
Lack of numbers
Several times, he told colleagues that Fianna Fáil could not “sit on the sidelines” to allow instability to take root at a crucial time.
The prevailing view within Fianna Fáil is that efforts by Sinn Féin to form a left-leaning coalition will not be successful because of a lack of numbers. With Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael both refusing to enter discussions with Sinn Féin, several of its TD have said discussions will likely take place between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael when all other avenues have been exhausted.
Speaking after the meeting, finance spokesman Michael McGrath said a coalition with Sinn Féin would not be good for Ireland because Sinn Féin’s policies of “high taxes and high spending and the notion that you could have everything for free is just not the real world”.
Sligo TD Marc MacSharry said there was no compatibility with Sinn Féin voices.
The Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív said the decision taken by the party on its negotiating strategy would need to be discussed in detail, as it was itself problematic and had the potential to divide the party, especially its supporters under 50 years of age.