The Irish Times view on Sinn Féin’s coalition options: Parties must stick to their positions

Mary Lou McDonald is seeking to position her party at the centre of debate in the next election campaign

The declaration by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that she is open for coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail is a clear attempt to position the party at the centre of debate in the next general election campaign. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The declaration by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that she is open for coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail is a clear attempt to position the party at the centre of debate in the next general election campaign. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The declaration by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald that she is open to coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil is a clear attempt to position the party at the centre of debate in the next general election campaign. The move may help to keep the spotlight on Sinn Féin but it could backfire if it forces Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to give unequivocal commitments during the campaign not to coalese with the party under any circumstances.

Responding to McDonald’s coalition aspirations, which were aired in an interview with The Irish Times, leading members of the two big parties have come out strongly against participating in a coalition involving Sinn Féin.

Rejecting the proposal in forthright terms, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys described Fine Gael and Sinn Féin as “oil and water” and said the economic policies of the two parties were incompatible.She said that if the Government had taken any of the advice offered by Sinn Féin over the past seven years Ireland would be in a worse situation than Greece by now.

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers was equally dismissive of Sinn Féin’s economic policies. Pertinently she cited the party’s links with the IRA and its Army Council as a clear impediment to sharing government with them.

Given the rejection of the Sinn Féin coalition option already expressed by Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, it would appear that there is little or no prospect of either of the two big parties doing a U-turn after the next election.

However, voters have good reason to be sceptical about political promises given that in the past both of the big parties have engaged in coalition deals that they had appeared to rule out during election campaigns.

Next time around they will be pressed by the media to give the kind of commitments they will not be able to go back on when the votes are counted unless they want to completely undermine the credibility of politics.

If they wish to be taken seriously, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will have to spell out what they intend to do if, as appears likely at this stage, there is another hung Dáil after the election.

Before the 2016 election they ruled out coalition with each other but in the inconclusive aftermath Fine Gael offered to do the unthinkable and coalesce with the old enemy, only for Fianna Fáil to reject the offer. The confidence and supply arrangement ended up as the compromise and, to be fair to all concerned, it has served the State reasonably well.

Next time around the two parties will have to be much more forthright with the electorate about what they will or will not do after the election. It is the least the voters should expect from them.

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