Simon Coveney says FG may form rainbow coalition after next election
Fine Gael could win ‘well above’ 60 seats in a general election, Tánaiste claims
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said Fine Gael had more scope to gain seats in the Munster region than in the greater Dublin area. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/EPA
Fine Gael could win “well above” 60 seats at the next general election, which would place it in a position to form a majority government with Labour, the Green Party and others, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.
Mr Coveney said Fine Gael had more scope to gain seats in the Munster region than in the greater Dublin area and wanted the party to be in a “position to form a government that commands a majority”.
The Fine Gael deputy leader praised Fianna Fáil for extending the confidence-and-supply deal until 2020, which “allows us to plan now without looking over our shoulder all the time for the potential triggering of a general election”.
In a briefing for journalists, Mr Coveney said the local and European elections next spring would be important for Fine Gael, which currently has four seats in the European Parliament.
He said the party should aim “to hold what we have in the European Parliament but we want to make significant gains in terms of local elections and we want to be the biggest party in the country, locally as well as nationally”.
Fianna Fáil outpolled Fine Gael at the last local elections in 2014, which took place against the backdrop of the economic crisis. The next council elections would be held in a different “political atmosphere”, he said.
“What we want is a successful local election that can be a springboard then for gains in a general election. Fine Gael is intent on winning well above 60 seats in the Dáil the next time around. I think we need to do that to be in a strong position to form a government that can command a majority.”
Fine Gael won 50 seats at the last general election but can count on the support of only 49 in the Dáil due to Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick resigning the party whip.
Mr Coveney listed off Cork South West, Cork North West, Cork East and Cork South Central as constituencies where the party can potentially gain seats.
He said coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil was unlikely, and ruled out an alliance with Sinn Féin.
“I think you are more likely to see, hopefully, a strong Fine Gael coming out of the next election, looking to build a partnership and an alliance with other parties where we share agendas and that we want to complete together.
“Certainly I’d like to be part of that. It is no secret, by the way, that before the last government was formed I would have been a very strong advocate for a very strong rainbow coalition with parties like the Labour Party and the Greens as part of that. It didn’t happen. Who knows, maybe it will happen after the next election.
“I wouldn’t take any of the other parties for granted, this will be a matter for parties to decide their priorities, what they want after the next election and we will have to see what the numbers dictate.
“We will have to wait and see where entities like the Independent Alliance, where the Green Party is, where the Labour Party is. And, of course, they have to be open to it too. That is a discussion that we have post the election when we see the arithmetic of the new Dáil. I hope we will be in a position to form a government that commands a majority so that we can continue to build a stronger, fairer, economy and society.”