Thursday 14 December 2017

Martin facing split in FF as TDs urge deal with Sinn Fein

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin: no coalition with SF. Photo: Damien Eagers
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin: no coalition with SF. Photo: Damien Eagers

John Downing Political Correspondent

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin faces a renewed split within his party – this time over moves by key members who favour sharing government with Sinn Fein.

Mr Martin has again emphatically ruled out any FF-SF coalition arguing that Sinn Fein's economic policies threatened jobs and foreign investment. He also raised the temperature in the debate by saying he objected to SF's method of doing politics, resorting on occasion to threats and intimidation.

But two senior Fianna Fail figures have now said the party cannot continue to totally rule out power-sharing with Sinn Fein with elections set for less than two years from now in spring 2016.

Justice spokesman Niall Collins has said the party could not "rule out coalition" with any party – including SF – after the general election and his view was supported by another senior TD who said that the party is already making council alliances with SF locally.

Local and European elections a week ago led to a Labour wipe-out across the country and a much depleted Fine Gael.

These results also suggested that Fianna Fail, with 25pc of the vote, and Sinn Fein with 15pc, could be in line to make up a coalition from spring 2016.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has made it clear that the party is ready to go into government if the circumstances are right. He has all but ruled out prospects of going into coalition with Fine Gael.

Up to now Fianna Fail has categorically said it would not go into government with Sinn Fein as their economic policies were incompatible. But speaking on Wednesday night Limerick TD Niall Collins veered away from what has been the party line. Mr Collins said ideally Fianna Fail had a preference for being the senior partner in any future coalition.

Last night, another long-serving FF TD said Mr Collins's comments were correct. "If that is the way the numbers fall, as they did after these elections, and especially with the prospect of FF being the senior partner in government, we would have to seriously consider government with Sinn Fein," the TD, who did not wish to be named, told the Irish Independent.

A spokesman for Micheal Martin insisted that Mr Collins was speaking in a personal capacity and that nothing had changed in Fianna Fail's determined view that it could not share power with Sinn Fein.

"Fianna Fail's ambitions for the economy and our focus on job creation are not compatible with Sinn Fein's relentless high tax agenda which would serve only to jeopardise jobs and discourage foreign investment," Mr Martin's spokesman said.

"Also, as we have said repeatedly in the past, we have concerns about how Sinn Fein practices its politics," Mr Martin's official added.

Fianna Fail Limerick TD Willie O'Dea said he would "be very uncomfortable" with the prospect of coalition with Sinn Fein. He added that many FF supporters would take the same strong view.

However, Mr O'Dea conceded that Fianna Fail has in the past cooperated with Sinn Fein on many local councils, and will do so again. "This is a different situation and involves trying to get SF away from its default position of opposing absolutely everything," Mr O'Dea said.

Irish Independent

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