Tuesday 21 May 2019

Fine Gael minister says Sinn Féin's past would be 'unhelpful' to going into government

Jim Daly raised the prospect of an alliance with Sinn Féin. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Jim Daly raised the prospect of an alliance with Sinn Féin. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Wayne O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

The Fine Gael minister who raised the prospect of going in to government with Sinn Féin after the next election said the party’s paramilitary links to the past are “not helpful”.

Minister for Older People Jim Daly said he has a good relationship with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

He admitted he could not see Fine Gael members endorsing a move that would see the parties go into coalition after the next election.

However, he said ruling out the prospect of going in to government with Sinn Féin “because they are Sinn Féin” was not something he agrees with.

“I do not believe an objection to going in to power with Sinn Féin for the sake of it because they are Sinn Féin is valid,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

“I think the objection has to be deeper than that, it has to be more real than that and their anti EU stance.”

When asked about Sinn Féin’s paramilitary links to the past, Mr Daly said: “They’re not helpful.”

He was speaking about an interview he gave to ‘Hot Press’ magazine where he said he had “no objection” to Mary Lou McDonald’s party going in to Government.

He said the interview was carried out three weeks ago but its publication has coincided with suggestions in the UK that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is cosying up to Sinn Féin.

The UK’s Brexit Secretary David Davis earlier this week attempted to blamed the lack of a solution to the border question on the Irish government.

Mr Daly said he did not want his comments to be unhelpful to Government formation talks in the North.

“I accept that the timing of the comments, if not taken in their totality, or explained or clarified, can be unhelpful.

“The last thing I want to be to the talks in the North is unhelpful on the 20th anniversary (of the Good Friday Agreement) or indeed Brexit.”

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar denied he has slapped down junior minister Jim Daly in relation to his remarks on Sinn Féin and other issues in recent months.

He said Mr Daly is doing a "fabulous job" as minister for mental health and older people.

He said: "He’s someone who’s outspoken and who speaks his mind in a way perhaps that I did a lot in the past, so I’m certainly not slapping anyone down."

Mr Varadkar said he was "puzzled" why "everyone is obsessed about future coalitions and elections."

He added: "there’s no election planned for this year and I’m leading a coalition, I’m leading a government that is working, a government that has more work to do."

He said the government has balanced the books and increased employment and that his focus and that of his ministers is "very much on getting the job done, not on looking at future coalition partners".

Mr Varadkar said that Fine Gael and Sinn Féin are "incompatible" accusing the rival party of being "a Eurosceptic, high tax, sectarian party" and adding: "we’re not".

He continued: "For example, they want to increase VAT which would drive up the cost of living for everyone. They don’t want to give any tax breaks to middle income people. They’re Eurosceptic or Euro-critical at a time when we need allies around Europe, and also the very nationalistic approach when I think we should be internationalist."

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section