Friday 22 September 2017

Taoiseach fails to rule out FG and SF in coalition

O'Dea says leaked investor note shows that a 'vote for FG is a vote for SF'

Enda Kenny after giving his Taoiseach's address at the Fine Gael's National Conference 2015 in the TF Royal Hotel Castlebar.
Picture: Mark Condren
Enda Kenny after giving his Taoiseach's address at the Fine Gael's National Conference 2015 in the TF Royal Hotel Castlebar. Picture: Mark Condren

Jody Corcoran and John Drennan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has failed to clearly rule out a Fine Gael government with Sinn Fein - in a week when international investors have been told such a coalition is now a "50-50" chance.

In an assessment on the "political risks" to the country's recovery, investors have also been advised that Sinn Fein would be unlikely to stick to its anti-austerity policies in government.

The Davy group, which advises corporations and institutional investors, says Sinn Fein will be "perfectly happy" to "moderate" its economic views in a "middle of the road" coalition.

This assessment will come as a shock to a substantial number of voters who have been looking to Sinn Fein as the main anti-austerity party, according to recent polls.

There is growing concern in Fine Gael this weekend that Mr Kenny has twice in recent days failed to emphatically rule out coalition with Sinn Fein. Instead, Fine Gael has embarked on an all-out strategy to attack Fianna Fail to present the election as a two-horse race between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein.

Yesterday, Willie O'Dea, Fianna Fail spokesman for Social Protection and Equality, said: "The mask has slipped - a vote for Fine Gael is a vote for Sinn Fein and a vote for Sinn Fein is a vote for Fine Gael."

And last night, high-profile Fine Gael TD, John Deasy said Mr Kenny needed to "wise up" and make it "absolutely clear" Fine Gael would not share power with Sinn Fein.

Mr Deasy told the Sunday Independent: "I'm ruling out coalition with Sinn Fein and I speak for dozens of Fine Gael parliamentarians. Every Fine Gael supporter I know consider Sinn Fein as a non-runner for a coalition and the leadership needs to wise up to that and make that absolutely clear."

Mr Deasy's was supported across the Fine Gael parliamentary party. James Bannon TD warned: "No leader would get this through the parliamentary party. There would be mass resignations."

And Regina Doherty TD said, for personal and political reasons, she could not "countenance" a coalition with Sinn Fein. However, international investors were briefed last week that a government of Fine Gael and the "new left", such as Sinn Fein, was a distinct possibility.

In detailed analysis, the Davy group said there would be no significant change in economic policy with Sinn Fein in power. Chief economist, Conall MacCoille, states: "In short, Sinn Fein is now implementing a Northern Ireland budget described by the Socialist Party as a 'neo-liberal programme of austerity'."

In an interview on RTE's Prime Time last week, Mr Kenny said his preferred coalition was the current Fine Gael/Labour coalition.

ANALYSIS PAGES 12 & 20

Yesterday, several Cabinet ministers appeared to pour cold water on the possibility of coalition with Sinn Fein but fell short of definitively ruling it out.

Ministers Richard Bruton, Frances Fitzgerald and Michael Noonan said the current Government hoped to be re-elected, with Mr Noonan of the view that a majority could be provided with like-minded independents. Mr Noonan later said Fine Gael had "no plans" to coalesce with SF.

However, the Davy analysis states that independents, while a large group collectively and attracting growing support in the opinion polls, are "very diverse ideologically" and "riven with personality differences". There was little, if any, evidence of support mobilising around any single figure.

This analysis also states that the re-election of the current Government was "the least likely" outcome given the low point of the Labour party in opinion polls.

On RTE, Mr Kenny twice failed to take an opportunity to explicitly rule out coalition with Sinn Fein, but was adamant that "in no circumstances" would Fine Gael enter coalition with Fianna Fail.

And in his opening address at party's Ard Fheis in Mayo this weekend, he again honed his attack on Fianna Fail without mentioning Sinn Fein. His advisers said the plan was to target Micheal Martin to ensure FF remain out of the voters minds for the formation of the next government.

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar yesterday also left open the possibility of a Fine Gael-led coalition with either Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail: "Neither can be trusted to lead a government."

In a Davy-commissioned report, David Farrell, Professor of Politics at UCD, outlined four potential governments - a combination of established parties; the "Greek outcome"; a "middle of the road" coalition between established parties and "some elements" from the left; and the "electoral uncertainty" of a minority and unstable government.

He said "a more likely option" would be a new coalition among the established parties, one centred on Fine Gael and Fianna Fail - the option Mr Kenny ruled out last week.

Short of a "major cataclysmic event", Prof Farrell also dismissed the 'Greek outcome' led by Sinn Fein with the left.

But he said: "Broadly, there would seem to be a 50/50 chance between, effectively, the status quo (a coalition centred around the established parties) or a coalition of established parties with elements of the new left. The latter might result in some policy shifts, but these are unlikely to be too radical."

He said Sinn Fein "as we have seen" had been "perfectly happy to moderate its views to enter (and retain) government in Northern Ireland". He also said the belief that Sinn Fein would stay out of government for "one more push" was a "risky" strategy in an improving economic situation.

Mr MacCoille, meanwhile, said an "enormous upheaval in budgetary policy" would be required to endanger Ireland's debt sustainability. "We do not believe there are likely political scenarios that could lead to such policies - even those including left-leaning parties that would inevitably have to enter a coalition government."

Mr MacCoille said opinion polls suggested the "only realistic path" for Sinn Fein to enter government was in coalition with one of the traditional parties.

Former Fine Gael advisor, Frank Flannery, yesterday said that the Government must fight against "all corners" of the political spectrum - including the rise of Sinn Fein and left-wing parties.

Sunday Independent

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