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Varadkar seeks talks with Sinn Féin to 'show they are not interested in government'

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Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in a post cabinet coronavirus briefing. Photo: MerrionStreet.ie/PA Wire

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in a post cabinet coronavirus briefing. Photo: MerrionStreet.ie/PA Wire

PA

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in a post cabinet coronavirus briefing. Photo: MerrionStreet.ie/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has formally written to Sinn Féin seeking to discuss policy and the current deadlock surrounding government formation.

Speaking in Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar revealed he sent a letter to the party seeking a meeting with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

"What I said for the past two or three weeks is that we won’t form a government with Sinn Féin," he said.

"We’re not refusing to speak to anyone and we spoke with Sinn Féin in the past on many matters in relation to lots of different issues and do so regularly," he added.

The acting Taoiseach said he was willing to speak to any party but he would not discuss government formation. He said he contacted Sinn Féin last week and had yet to hear back from the party.

A senior Government source said Mr Varadkar was willing to talk policies Ms McDonald and also explain Fine Gael’s analysis of the current political situation.

However, he is not be willing to enter into formal government formation talks with Sinn Féin or any other party.

The source said Sinn Féin’s failure to respond to the request for a meeting showed they are "not taking the negotiations seriously".

"They are criticising us one minute for not engaging in talks but then when we contacted them they just ignored us," the source said. "It is just confirmation of what everyone knows about Sinn Fein which is that they don’t mean what they say and can’t be trusted."

The source said the aim of the letter was to "show up" Sinn Féin as a party who were not interested in leading the next Government.

Sinn Féin did not respond to requests for comment.

In Government Buildings, The Taoiseach said the last two days of talks with the Green Party had been "very positive". He also noted the Social Democrats had cancelled a meeting with Fine Gael. He insisted the onus was not on Fine Gael to lead the next government.

"The opposition make up the vast majority of the Dáil. They have over 120 seats. Only 80 are required for government so government can be formed by the opposition parties, whether it's Fianna Fail and Sinn Féin coming together, or a Fianna Fáil led government or a Sinn Fein led that government without us," he said.

"I don't have a mandate from my parliamentary party to get involved in talks on forming a government at this stage," he added.

This evening Ms McDonald said she will be writing back to Mr Varadkar and said she has "undertaken to speak to everybody."

She told RTÉ's Drivetime that Mr Varadkar had texted her and sent her a letter and that she has drafted a response but has not yet sent it.

Ms McDonald said that not long after the contact from Mr Varadkar she was "taken aback" by an article he wrote in the Sunday Independent which contained harsh criticisms and claims about Sinn Féin.

She claimed that he said things that were "unworthy" of the office of the Taoiseach.

Ms McDonald said she is not withholding her response to Mr Varadkar's letter as a result and that it's "on the way to him".

She said: "I’m not setting down red lines, much less refusing to meet or speak to anybody."

Ms McDonald added that she wants to discuss a rent freeze and reducing the pension age to 65 with everybody including Mr Varadkar.

Online Editors