Members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party saw little common ground with Sinn Féin when asked about the prospect of governing with them at the party’s Árdfheis in Dublin this weekend.
“There’s so little in common,” said Paul McAuliffe, TD for Dublin North West, saying Sinn Féin had falsely suggested Government TDs had voted to seal records on the mother and baby homes during a controversial vote last year.
“How could you work with a party who’s willing to say that?” he asked, adding that there were “very, very limited” circumstances that he could envisage Fianna Fáil entering Government with Sinn Féin — “and I could see no circumstances where we would be the smaller party in the coalition”.
Lisa Chambers, the Senator and former Mayo TD, said Fianna Fáil should concentrate on maximising its own vote. While she said she didn’t think anybody could be excluded, she said she was “not sure it’s possible” to find common ground with Sinn Féin.
Clare TD Cathal Crowe echoed these sentiments saying it was “not smart to enter into any electoral process fully ruling in or out any option” but that he sees “a lot of incompatibility with Sinn Féin at the moment”, “certainly on their economic policies,” which he said would have to “utterly shift” before a coalition could even be considered.
“I’m at the real green end of Fianna Fáil, I’m very much republican. I consider myself more republican than a lot in Sinn Féin would be across from me. However, things like the Special Criminal Court, respect for An Garda Síochána, the Irish army, would matter a lot to me,” he said.
“They were born out of the streets of Derry and Belfast in the late 1960s, they’re a totally different beast to the party of Sinn Féin that existed up to the 1916-21 period.
“They consistently try to get their claws on some of our figures in our party, Countess Markievicz being one. They seek to rewrite history to their own advantage, it’s wrong. I’ll call that out at every opportunity.”
Kildare North TD James Lawless said he would consider going into Government with any party with an electoral mandate if Fianna Fáil were the “majority party”. He said he “wouldn’t have any automatic no” but that Sinn Féin would have to change some of its policy and acknowledge the “constitutional entity, which is the state”.
“I think they are a populist party, I think they’re a party that preaches propaganda and whips up hysteria at times for electoral benefit — that’s not compatible with defending our democracy,” he said.
In a report in advance of the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis in Saturday’s Irish Times, three Fianna Fáil figures in Government sketched out a scenario where Sinn Féin would have to pass a series of tests or preconditions before a coalition was considered.
All three said a series of tests or preconditions would have to be met before going into negotiations.
These include Sinn Féin unambiguously repudiating the IRA and a complete apology for the violence of the Troubles, as well as subscribing to a set of economic preconditions including income tax and being bound by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development moves on corporation tax and that the party would not be given the justice or defence briefs.
It would also have to make important symbolic recognition of the role of the Garda, Defence Forces and the courts, including the Special Criminal Court and rhetorically concede that there are two jurisdictions on the island, called Ireland and Northern Ireland.