Saturday 24 February 2018

Senior TDs warn Martin against coalition with FG

Éamon Ó Cuív said doing a deal with Fine Gael would fly in the face of everything they stated they would do on the hustings
Éamon Ó Cuív said doing a deal with Fine Gael would fly in the face of everything they stated they would do on the hustings

Niall O'Connor, Alan O'Keffe and John Fallon

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been warned to resist the temptation of entering coalition with Fine Gael amid fears the move will facilitate the growth of Sinn Féin.

Senior Fianna Fáil TDs are fervently opposed to the idea of a 'grand coalition' and instead favour the prospect of supporting a minority Fine Gael government on a case-by-case basis.

Some of Mr Martin's closest lieutenants have also rejected suggestions that a failure to enter coalition with Fine Gael will leave the party open to criticism from voters.

"This whole claim that we will be hammered for not acting in the national interest is bulls***," said one senior party source.

"When we acted in the 'national interest' before and voted through billions of euro worth of cuts, what happened? We got hammered."

Another deputy close to Mr Martin said supporting Fine Gael on a case-by-case basis, similar to what happened in the late 1980s, would allow Fianna Fáil to dictate when the next election will be.

"It would mean we could pull the plug if we wanted," said the source.

And a Fianna Fáil strategist said the party is comfortable with Taoiseach Enda Kenny trying to "cobble together" a government propped up by Independents.

"Fine Gael will have about 10 seats more than Fianna Fáil, remember. Preventing the rise of the hard left and Sinn Féin is working in the national interest," said the source.

Mr Martin is due back in Dublin early this week, when he will hold discussions with his key advisers. A meeting of the parliamentary party is likely to be held next week.

Several TDs yesterday publicly ruled out the idea of doing business with Fine Gael.

TDs Willie O'Dea and Éamon Ó Cuív said they had serious doubts such a proposal would be approved by delegates at an Árd Fheis.

Mr Ó Cuív said doing a deal with Fine Gael would fly in the face of everything they stated they would do on the hustings.

"I certainly wouldn't advocate it because I believe your word is your bond. And we said that quite clearly in this election, and we fought this election on the basis that we weren't going with Fine Gael.

"People get cynical about politics when people say one thing in an election and do the opposite and that's one of the prices that Labour have paid," he told reporters.

"The second thing is of course this has to go to an Árd Fheis of the party, and certainly we were getting the word from our own members in particular who were canvassing. The people who were doing all of the hard work for the party, the people who are the party, at the end of the day.

"But the party belongs to the ordinary person who pays the €20 a year, like I do.

"They were sending a very clear message that they wanted us to pursue our policies, that they would see us being totally incompatible with Fine Gael policies," he added.

Mayo TD Dara Calleary was also categorical in ruling out a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil government.

"I'll be very strong in saying I don't think we should be going into government with Fine Gael," he said following his election yesterday.

The party's General Secretary Sean Dorgan echoed the remarks on TV3's election programme last night.

But one of Fianna Fáil's newly elected TD, Pat Casey of Wicklow, said he is open to such a scenario, although with conditions.

"I think it has to be looked at. We can't rule anything out.

"We have to act responsibly and we need to sit down and look at what's on the table and what's off the table. There are differences between the two parties so they would have to be overcome," he said.

"I've no real objection to it but this is not for the parliamentary party to decide.

"It is actually for the full membership of the party," he added.

But in an apparent swipe at Fianna Fáil, junior finance minister Simon Harris called on other parties to "act like adults".

He criticised parties who he said are so "quick" to dismiss entering government.

Sports Minister Michael Ring also said there is an obligation to those elected to try and form a government.

Irish Independent

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