‘The IRA has gone and they are not coming back. That’s the reality’

Sinn Féin politicians repeat strong denial that IRA retains influence over party

Sinn Féin TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn spoke about Sinn Féin’s decision to hold rallies around the country in an attempt to gather support for the party’s efforts to get into a coalition government. File photograph: Eric Luke

Sinn Féin TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn spoke about Sinn Féin’s decision to hold rallies around the country in an attempt to gather support for the party’s efforts to get into a coalition government. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

Sinn Féin has repeated its strong denial that the Provisional IRA retains any influence over the party and has claimed Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have used this issue to prevent it entering government.

The party’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill and Donegal TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn separately asserted on Sunday the IRA was no longer in existence.

“The IRA has gone and they are not coming back. That’s the reality,” Mr Mac Lochlainn told The Week in Politics on RTÉ.

Ms O’Neill has said comments by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on Friday that he agreed with a 2015 PSNI assessment of Provisional IRA influence over Sinn Féin had to be viewed in the context of what had happened in the Dáil the night before.

“This issue arose on the back of the historic vote in the Dáil last Thursday when for the first time since the formation of the State someone other than Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil received more votes for the position of taoiseach.

“I think it comes at a time when Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael want to talk about everything other than the fact that they failed in government, it comes at a time when they are shaping up to do more of the same together in an attempt to carve up political power for themselves.”

Ms O’Neill, the deputy first minister in the Northern executive, said Sinn Féin had no issue with Mr Harris.

“I have confidence in Drew Harris. This is not about him. A number of politicians are trying to put words in his mouth that he never said,” she told RTÉ’s This Week programme.

Earlier, Mr Mac Lochlainn spoke about Sinn Féin’s decision to hold rallies around the country in an attempt to gather support for the party’s efforts to get into a coalition government.

He signalled that the party anticipates big turnouts at the rallies that will reinforce the party’s argument that Sinn Féin participation in government was part of the mandate for change the electorate voted for in the election earlier this month.

Asked about the point of the rallies, he said: “It is important to report back to the people and get their feedback.

“Right now we are clearly moving towards another arrangement with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil...We are not the one putting exclusionary obstacles in place. [The wishes of]700,000 voters are not to be respected. To say we are not fit for government is not respecting our mandate.”

However, the rallies were criticised by other politicians on The Week in Politics panel as unnecessary and as a stunt. Fianna Fáil TD for Waterford Mary Butler said that Sinn Féin had to respect the mandate her party had received and that its position not to deal with Sinn Féin had been consistent from before the election.

Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee, for Meath East, said her party had also consistently said it would not work with Sinn Féin.

“The view (has been reinforced by the) fact that the head of the Garda Síochána said that an army council representatives still had a say over a democratic party.”

The Green Party said it was the only party willing to speak to all other parties. Its Dún Laoghaire TD Ossian Smyth said he agreed with Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin that it would be very difficult to establish a minority left government (led by Sinn Féin) with the current numbers, as it would involve abstention from Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

“The way democracy works is to have a majority government,” he said.

He signalled his party might not be willing to go into government unless there were multiple parties involved. He cited the Finnish model where there are five separate parties working together in coalition.

Gary Gannon of the Social Democrats criticised Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for not talking with Sinn Féin but defended his own party’s decision not to consider a government with involvement from both those parties. He said the Social Democrats would be willing to speak to the parties separately. The only combination possible, it was pointed out by others on the panel, was if either was discussing a coalition with Sinn Féin).

He denied a charge by Ms Butler that his party was “taking your self off the playing pitch”.

“We would work with one of them (Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael). We recognise that two of the big three will have to come together,” he said.

Mr Smyth also criticised the Labour Party and described its members as the “villains of the piece”.

“They have not taken part at all. The reason is they say they need time to rebuild their own party. So they are willing to sit back on the back-benches and do nothing for five years,” he said.