Minister 'risking votes' with SF talk
Fine Gael minister Jim Daly has put votes at risk by undermining the Taoiseach's opposition to working with Sinn Féin, colleagues believe.
The Older People Minister sparked outrage within his party after raising the spectre of a Fine Gael/Sinn Féin coalition.
Sinn Féin's leader Mary Lou McDonald told the Irish Independent she is willing to enter government talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if the numbers stack up.
"After the next election we will talk to people, we will talk to Fine Gael and all others. At that stage you have to assess where the balance of force lies," she said.
Ms McDonald said there isn't "a great appetite" in Sinn Féin for doing a deal with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, but added: "We are grown-ups and this is grown-up politics."
Fine Gael colleagues of Mr Daly, including the Taoiseach, were quick to distance themselves from the suggestion they should have "no objection" to Sinn Féin in government.
Mr Varadkar said he wouldn't be "slapping down" the junior minister but totally ruled out the idea of working with Sinn Féin.
He said the parties are "incompatible" due to Sinn Féin being "a Eurosceptic, high-tax, sectarian party".
"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," Mr Varadkar said.
Fine Gael chairman Martin Heydon said a coalition with Sinn Féin is "not something that could ever happen".
"They don't embrace democracy. Look at their fiscal policy - we are as far removed as political parties can get."
On Independent.ie's 'Floating Voter' podcast, Senator Neale Richmond said he would resign the party whip sooner than enter a coalition with Sinn Féin.
"Simple as that. I don't believe in red lines, but it's one for me that is just unconscionable. They are a hard left party who haven't come to the stage of being a mature political party," he said.
Other Fine Gael TDs privately said they were "disgusted" with Mr Daly and "can't understand what he's at".
Mr Daly first made the comments in an interview with 'Hot Press' magazine but also appeared on RTÉ's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' to defend himself yesterday.
Reacting to that interview, one TD said: "He should bite the bullet and admit he's wrong because he's putting votes at risk."
On radio the Cork TD said Sinn Féin's paramilitary links are "not helpful".
He said ruling out the prospect of going into government with Sinn Féin "because they are Sinn Féin" was not something he agrees with.
"I do not believe an objection to going into power with Sinn Féin for the sake of because they are Sinn Féin is valid," he said.
"I think the objection has to be deeper than that, it has to be more real than that and their anti-EU stance."
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."