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Hundreds attend Mary Lou's meeting as Leo hits out at 'bullying campaign'

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Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty at the Sinn Fein rally in Cork last night

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty at the Sinn Fein rally in Cork last night

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty at the Sinn Fein rally in Cork last night

Between 800 and 1,000 people attended a meeting in Cork last night to rally public support for Sinn Fein's efforts to get into government.

Over the next fortnight, further meetings are planned for Dublin, Galway, Cavan and Newry.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said the rally is a continuation of "a conversation" she has been having around the country with voters.

"Tonight is very much a conversation," she said. "I don't think it's wise that the election happens, people cast their vote and then the politicians disappear behind high walls and have discussions and leave people out.

Faith

"I think it's healthier to involve people, listen to people, answer their questions and listen to their ideas.

"I'm not going to claim the trademark on public meetings, this is a thing that good political parties do.

"It is important that we maintain people's interest in politics, rebuild faith in politics and at the heart of that is listening to what people say."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had hit out at Sinn Fein's plans to hold rallies, describing them as a campaign of "intimidation and bullying".

Ms McDonald responded: "I think his comments were completely over the top. The political establishment are struggling with the result of the election.

"I think they're having difficulty coming to terms with it, but that's what they must do. For a reasonable, sensible person, the suggestion that holding public meetings is somehow an affront to democracy is ridiculous."

The party has organised a number of public meetings on both sides of the border to drum up support in its bid to be part of the next government. Mr Varadkar said the plans are an "unwelcome development".

"Generally, what happens in a democracy is people vote, the votes are counted and then parties try to form a government," he said.

"What's happening here, it seems that Sinn Fein, having won less than a quarter of the vote, are behaving as if they have won a majority.

"My party regularly won more than a quarter of the vote and didn't get into government.

"I think these rallies are designed to be the next phase in Sinn Fein's campaign of intimidation and bullying.

"We saw that online and now we are seeing it in their rallies, and I wouldn't be surprised if they take it to the streets.

"It just shows you, again, that they are not a normal party; this is a party that has a casual relationship with democracy."

Mr Varadkar, who will meet Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin today, previously said his party was preparing to go into opposition.

He denied the meeting was a change in Fine Gael's approach to government.

"As I said last week, we would be willing to engage in exploratory talks with any party that wants to speak to us," he said.

"That's happening with Fianna Fail and the Greens this week. Labour have their own issues and don't want to talk, and Social Democrats cancelled their meeting we offered them, so it's just exploratory discussions at this point with Fianna Fail and the Greens this week.

"What I would say is that the onus really still falls with Sinn Fein to form a government.

"They on the left believe they won the election, they have an opportunity now to prove that now by forming a government.

"If they can't form a government they should fess up and say they didn't actually win the election, and even if they had they disagree with each other so much that they wouldn't have been able to form a government anyway."

Mr Varadkar was speaking at event where Mastercard confirmed it is creating 1,500 jobs in Ireland.

Asked where all the newly recruited staff would live in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said one of the "features" of a strong economy was the pressure on housing.

He also hit out at other political parties' housing pledges.

"We have heard a lot of people making out that they can magic up houses overnight or even within a few weeks; that isn't true. We are going to stick to what is true, and that is continuing to scale up an increase of number of new homes," he added.


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