Saturday 17 November 2018

Martin hits out at O Cuiv for claims of SF alliance

Rebel TD says parties' republican ethos makes them ideal partners

John Drennan

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin moved swiftly to nip in the bud a controversial suggestion by the turbulent back-bench TD Eamon O Cuiv that Sinn Fein would be his preferred choice as future coalition partners in government.

Sources close to the leadership told the Sunday Independent: "there is absolutely no strategy within Fianna Fail to build an alliance of any shape or form with Sinn Fein.''

They added: "Fianna Fail at this point in time are concentrating on the hard task of internal reform and renewal, not fanciful theories about future coalitions.''

The remarks by Mr O Cuiv, reported in the Connacht Tribune, sparked fury in the broader ranks of Fianna Fail.

Incandescent TDs and senators told Mr O Cuiv he could "expect a hot reception from us after this bout of mischief making'' and added that "if Mr O Cuiv wants to go into coalition with Sinn Fein, they are welcome to him''.

One TD noted of Mr O Cuiv that "he's operating in total isolation, no one is paying any heed to him here in Fianna Fail, or in Galway''.

Fianna Fail senator Darragh O'Brien warned that, given the current state of Fianna Fail, "it is utterly presumptuous of anyone to be even thinking about future coalition partners in government until we have rebuilt the party''.

Another source, meanwhile, noted: "We are in enough trouble with middle Ireland without suggesting that we're about to join up with the Sinn Feins and the Boyd Barretts."

Frontbench spokesman Niall Collins said: "Sinn Fein are, like Labour before the last election, adopting an 'against everything, for nothing' sort of politics. Fianna Fail, if we are to regain the respect of the electorate, is going to have to offer a more courageous sort of politics.''

Though Mr O Cuiv, in political terms, shares Sinn Fein's Euro-scepticism, the declaration of intent came as a surprise to a party hierarchy that believes they are locked in a life-and-death struggle with the reformed political party.

Whilst Fianna Fail have previously been in coalition with Labour, when it came to what many see as a more likely partnership, Mr O Cuiv claimed it was "disastrous when we went into government with Labour in the Nineties".

Mr O Cuiv said that Fianna Fail differed from Fine Gael and Labour fundamentally in their republican ethos and claimed Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein represented the republican tradition in Dail Eireann.

However, Fianna Fail frontbench TD Timmy Dooley said: "in the past Fianna Fail and Labour had a very strong working relationship'', whilst Billy Kelleher warned that a FF/SF alliance would be "as incompatible as the former FF/Green coalition''.

Responding to Mr O Cuiv's claim, one senior Labour source observed that "perhaps Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail are more ideologically suited. We in Labour are State builders -- whilst they are State wreckers''.

In what will be perceived as a shot across the bows of Mr Martin, Mr O Cuiv also warned that a crisis will be looming in Fianna Fail if its support does not improve within a year.

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