Monday 20 May 2019

We discussed doing a deal with Labour - Murphy

Red faces as Social Democrats TD admits to rainbow coalition talks

Catherine Murphy TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Catherine Murphy TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Social Democrats co-founder Catherine Murphy has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after admitting her party did discuss forming a rainbow coalition with the Labour Party and Green Party.

Despite publicly seeking to distance herself from Labour, Ms Murphy has now confirmed a plan to form a left-of-centre alliance involving all three parties to prop up Fine Gael was examined by the Social Democrats.

The Sunday Independent last week revealed talks had taken place between Labour, the Greens and Social Democrats about supporting a government led by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

After receiving backlash from supporters, Ms Murphy rushed to the national airwaves - where she was given free rein by RTE - to deny that any talks on entering government had taken place.

However, the true extent of those government talks, which can now be revealed in detail, raise serious questions over Ms Murphy's public comments.

Two weeks ago, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan held a private meeting with Social Democrats co-founder Stephen Donnelly near his home in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

At the meeting, Mr Ryan outlined his plan to form an alliance of the three parties which could exert influence in a rainbow coalition led by Fine Gael.

The Green Party leader put the same proposal directly to Ms Murphy during a discussion in Leinster House.

After his meeting with the Green TD, Mr Donnelly briefed Ms Murphy and Roisin Shortall on the proposal.

During the same period, Mr Ryan held talks with several senior Labour figures, including acting Tanaiste Joan Burton and acting public expenditure minister Brendan Howlin about the same proposal.

He also spoke to Ms Burton's chief-of-staff, Ed Brophy.

A Labour source described their discussions with Mr Ryan as "detailed".

At no stage did Labour and the Social Democrats speak directly to each other about entering government - and this newspaper did not report that they had.

However, the Social Democrats were fully aware that the proposal tabled by Mr Ryan had been offered to Labour as part of deal involving all three.

"We were talking to everyone and looking at every option and included in that was looking at whether it would be possible to form a rainbow coalition with a large centre-left component," Mr Ryan said.

Labour was initially open to the idea but has since decided against the move, as have the Social Democrats.

Questioned by the Sunday Independent about these meetings, Ms Murphy finally admitted the Social Democrats discussed Mr Ryan's proposal.

"Eamon Ryan had a conversation with Stephen about what they would like. Stephen presented it back to us and we had a brief conversation about the meeting with Eamon Ryan," Ms Murphy said.

"We don't take the same view as the Green Party and that is the approach we are going to proceed with," she added.

Mr Donnelly said a range of possibilities were discussed with Mr Ryan, including entering coalition with the Labour Party. However, he said the Social Democrats would not "do business" with Ms Burton during the next Dail term - in Opposition or Government.

Sunday Independent

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