Sunday 25 June 2017

Fine Gael told to play down Enda Kenny’s decision to open door to Sinn Féin coalition

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Damien Eagers
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Damien Eagers

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael politicians have been told to play down Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision to open the door to a coalition with Sinn Féin.

In an email sent to TDs and senators this evening, Fine Gael has said coalition with Sinn Féin is “not something that arises”.

This is despite Mr Kenny yesterday refusing to rule out such a prospect of three occasions, during an interview with political correspondents in Government Buildings on Thursday.

In the six line email, the party’s press office outlines a range of arguments that TDs and senators should make if they are asked about the issue by the media.

The email, seen by Independent.ie, reads:

“This Government is dealing with Brexit and the many challenges facing the country.

“Sinn Fein sees this and finally realises that to get things done and achieve results you need to be in government.

“Sinn Fein have finally realised - at least some of their members - that there is a glass ceiling on carping from the sidelines.

“Coalition with Sinn Fein is not something that arises - we have a minority Government in place that involved compromise, negotiations and hard work to bring together.

“What the Taoiseach actually said yesterday was that Sinn Fein as a party are a long way from becoming a desirable coalition partner and he would not see a coalition with them in the near future.

“Politicians must deal with the electorate’s choice and provide stable government. Fine Gael is doing that in the interests of the country.”

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin issue has caused uproar within Fine Gael.

Backbenchers and ministers have privately told Independent.ie they are “deeply concerned” and  “shocked” by the party leader’s sudden change of tack on the issue.

And a number have now publicly rejected the notion of sharing power with Gerry Adams.

Read more: Kenny in firing line over 'nonsensical and concerning' Sinn Féin comments

Prior to last year’s General Election Mr Kenny said Sinn Féin were “not fit for government” and as far back as 2009 he said: "I made it perfectly clear that Fine Gael would not be doing business with Sinn Fein and I have no intention of revisiting that.”

However, when asked about the possibility yesterday, the Taoiseach replied that he had also previously ruled out doing business with Fianna Fáil who are now propping up his minority government.

Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farrell said “talk of a coalition with Sinn Féin is nonsensical and concerning”.

“Should Sinn Féin ever enter a coalition government in the Republic, I cannot imagine it ever being with Fine Gael.

“I would say that the likelihood of them making it into government would be at the discretion of others in the opposition benches, specifically, Fianna Fail, should the prospect arise.

“In short, Fine Gael entering coalition with Sinn Féin would be nonsensical both in terms of policy and ideology,” he said.

Dublin South West TD Colm Brophy said he would not support Sinn Féin being brought into government “in any way, shape or form”.

“I believe they would wreck the economy of our country. I believe they are completely incompatible with Fine Gael,” he said on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke programme.

Longford/Westmeath TD Peter Burke echoed those sentiments, saying Fine Gael needed to “challenge” what he described as “left-wing populism” from Sinn Féin.

And Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said his constituents would not support him “if I voted for or went into government with Sinn Fein”.

He said there were too many unanswered questions about Sinn Féin’s links to the IRA and suggested Gerry Adams wants people to believe he was nothing more than the “chairman of the west Belfast tiddly-winks committee”.

There was some unease within Sinn Féin too with the party’s Dublin West TD Eoin Ó Broin tweeting: “Is Enda Kenny having a laugh! Why would any self respecting republican want to be in coalition with a right wing partitionist party?”

The party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she wants to be in government “but not at any price”.

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