Republic of Ireland news

Coalition options closing down and paving way for second election

Mary Lou McDonald said she would be writing to Micheál Martin to 'set out the substance' of Sinn Féin's position. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

EFFORTS to form a government in the Republic continue to flounder after brief talks yesterday between the leaders of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil failed to yield any breakthrough

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has appeared to rule out a confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil.

A statement from the party said there was an "onus" on Sinn Féin to form a "socialist republican government" after it secured the largest number of first preference votes.

The statement appears to suggest Fine Gael is resigned, for the meantime at least, to go into opposition though the party's rejection of confidence and supply with Fianna Fáil, coupled with Micheál Martin's party's refusal to talk to Sinn Féin, increases the likelihood of a second election.

Fine Gael said the numbers in the Dáil made it unfeasible to put in place an arrangement that would be the reverse of the deal which saw Fianna Fáil support its rival's minority government for four years.

"It was the only option left on the table after Fianna Fáil rejected the option of a coalition," the statement said of the deal brokered in the aftermath of the 2016 general election.

"The public gave its verdict in the last election on confidence and supply. All three parties have roughly the same number of seats and the numbers in the current Dáil do not support another confidence and supply arrangement."

Mary Lou McDonald said last night that she had spoken to her Fianna Fáil counterpart by phone for 15 minutes.

"I told Micheál Martin that people who voted for Sinn Féin and those who voted more widely for change are angry that Fianna Fáil is denying them the respect of sitting down with the party that represents them," she said.

"Throughout the election campaign I said that I would talk to everyone after the election because that is what we are duty bound to do with our respective mandates."

The Sinn Féin president said people "voted for change" and not for a Fianna Fáíl-Fine Gael grand coalition.

She said she would be writing to Mr Martin in the coming days to set out the "substance of our position" would ask the Fianna Fáil leader to do the same.

"Any meeting between us should be about building homes, giving workers and families a break, advancing Irish unity and delivering on the desire of the people for a new government for change.”

Ms McDonald's party won 37 seats and the highest proportion of first preference votes in last Saturday's election. Fianna Fáil secured 38 TDs compared to Fine Gael's 35.

Earlier the Sinn Féin leader criticised what she termed the "old boys' club" of the south's establishment parties and said forming a government without either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael would be "very, very tricky".

Sinn Féin TD and former Belfast councillor Eoin Ó Broin, who is part of his party's negotiating team, echoed his leader's view that forming a coalition without either of the party's main rivals was difficult.

"On Tuesday morning the broad progressive left had 66 TDs and that is not enough for government," he told RTÉ.

"What we have been saying since then is we want a government led by progressive left policies."

Fianna Fáil leader Mr Martin said on Thursday that he could not rule out another general election.

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