Sunday 11 December 2016

Splits in FF and SF over any future coalition

SF puts pressure on Adams over comments

Kevin Doyle, John Downing, Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Published 03/12/2015 | 02:30

<a href=http://cdn-04.independent.ie/incoming/article34255294.ece/e9c82/binary/NEWS-FF-coalition_2.jpg' target='_blank'>Click to see a bigger version of the graphic</a>
Click to see a bigger version of the graphic
Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil
Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibin

Splits have emerged within both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin after Gerry Adams opened the door to the idea of a coalition government.

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Several Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators have suggested Micheál Martin should not be ruling out coalition with Sinn Féin in advance of votes being cast.

And there is significant disquiet among some Sinn Féin TDs over what they see as Mr Adams linking them to a party which wrecked the economy.

He is expected to come under pressure from within the party to fully rule out the prospect of a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin government.

While the majority of Fianna Fáil TDs back the leader's stance to not do business with Sinn Féin, a cohort believe the position may have to change post-election.

The Fianna Fáil hierarchy are furious at being presented as potential partners for Sinn Féin, with sources saying even the idea has damaged their vote.

However, John McGuinness, Colm Keaveney, Micheál Kitt, Sean Fleming, John Browne and Mary White have refused to rule out coalition talks with Sinn Féin.

Bobby Aylward said he would back the party line but if the electorate decides, "there'd be a responsibility on us to speak to all parties".

Former deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuiv has rowed back on previous comments where he described Sinn Féin as "just another political party".

Last night, he said: "The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party have made a decision: we are not going with Fine Gael and we are not going with Sinn Féin. That is also my view - nothing else to be said."

Timmy Dooley said he would consider quitting Fianna Fáil if it did a deal with Mr Adams.

Mr Keaveney said he wouldn't close any doors but Fianna Fáil needs to be "out battling our own campaign" and "if it's the decision of the membership to take an application from Fine Gael or Sinn Féin I'd support that".

Their comments to the Irish Independent came after Mr Martin accused Sinn Féin of "posturing". "The party's policy platform and its way of doing business are incompatible with Fianna Fáil," he said.

Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibin spoke in similar terms to his party leader. Asked if he would consider such a coalition, Mr Tóibin said Fianna Fáil is "still very toxic" but "it is the people who will decide".

"I would find it very hard to see how that would happen but I think that if you admit the immediacy of the crises that people are experiencing, it is very important that you make yourself available to fixing those crises," he said.

Fianna Fáil's only female parliamentarian, Mary White, was among the dissenting voices, saying "isn't that what they all say", when asked about Mr Martin's opposition to Sinn Féin.

Ms White, who is a General Election candidate in Dublin Rathdown, insisted it would be the electorate who decide the next government.

"The people of our country will decide and we will do whatever the people tell us. I do believe we should be in government. We should fight to get into government and achieve our policies," she said.

John McGuinness, who previously said he was open minded about coalition options, said he still stands over that view.

Ambitious

"We should be ambitious about the numbers of seats. 45 is not a bad number. In the past, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael have said they will not talk to us, but history has shown that after a General Election, parties sit-down and talk. The electorate will decide on who should be in a coalition."

Mr McGuinness added there were major policy differences between the parties but "any political party cannot turn around after the election and say 'sorry, you gave us the wrong result'."

Former minister of state Micheál Kitt said Fianna Fáil will try to repeat their local election performance and lead the next government.

"Next time, we'll have a members' conference for the first time, which will have an input. But overall, in the past, coalitions happened which were not expected," he said.

In contrast ex-minister Willie O'Dea said: "I am completely and totally opposed to coalition with Sinn Féin."

Irish Independent

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