Op­tions to form gov­ern­ment nar­row­ing

Martin tells McDon­ald he stands by his de­ci­sion not to dis­cuss coali­tion with SF Ó Broin ac­knowl­edges plan for a left-wing coali­tion gov­ern­ment not a vi­able op­tion

The Irish Times - - Front Page - PAT LEAHY and HARRY McGEE

The op­tions for gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion nar­rowed yes­ter­day as Sinn Féin ac­knowl­edged that its plan for a left-wing coali­tion with­out Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael would fail.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDon­ald dur­ing a phone call that he would not re­con­sider his re­fusal to dis­cuss coali­tion with her.

Ms McDon­ald fiercely crit­i­cised Mr Martin for ex­clud­ing her party from what she called the “old boys club”, while long-serv­ing Fianna Fáil back­bencher Éa­mon Ó Cuív warned any pro­pos­als to form a coali­tion in­volv­ing Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would split his party.

Mean­while, left-wing rep­re­sen­ta­tives crit­i­cised Sinn Féin for giv­ing up on the plan to lead a coali­tion of the left, but the party’s hous­ing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin ad­mit­ted that the numbers in the Dáil to make that op­tion a re­al­ity were not avail­able.

Mr Martin strongly re­it­er­ated his po­si­tion not to en­ter coali­tion with Sinn Féin in a phone con­ver­sa­tion with Ms McDon­ald, dur­ing which she con­veyed her party’s anger at his re­fusal to con­sider the pro­posal.

Both lead­ers had their first sub­stan­tive con­ver­sa­tion fol­low­ing the elec­tion in the 15-minute phone call on Wed­nes­day.

Mr Martin out­lined why his party would not go into coali­tion with Sinn Féin, set­ting out as rea­sons eco­nomic in­com­pat­i­bil­ity, as well as Fianna Fáil’s doubts over the other party’s demo­cratic cre­den­tials.

Voted for change

For her part, Ms McDon­ald told Mr Martin that peo­ple who voted for change were fu­ri­ous be­cause they be­lieved their wishes were not be­ing re­spected.

“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. Re­fer­ring to wide­spread as­sump­tions Fianna Fáil will pur­sue a coali­tion with Fine Gael, she said of vot­ers who backed Sinn Féin: “They did not vote for a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael grand coali­tion.

In fact that is pre­cisely what they voted against last week.”

Dur­ing the call, Mr Martin told Ms McDon­ald his party had a man­date and it was its pre­rog­a­tive and duty to try to form a gov­ern­ment . He ar­gued no one group­ing in the Dáil could force another group­ing to form a gov­ern­ment when there were such in­com­pat­i­ble views on eco­nomic pol­icy and other is­sues.

Ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy

Ear­lier, Mr Ó Broin said a left-lean­ing coali­tion led by Sinn Féin and com­prised of left-wing par­ties and in­di­vid­u­als was not pos­si­ble, as there were not suf­fi­cient numbers.

This was re­ceived as a change in ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy for Sinn Féin and an in­di­ca­tion the party would fo­cus its at­ten­tion on persuading Fianna Fáil to be­gin bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions.

While Fianna Fáil’s par­lia­men­tary party backed Mr Martin’s stance on Sinn Féin, Gal­way

West TD Mr Ó Cuív said yes­ter­day he was “to­tally op­posed” to a coali­tion with Fine Gael and the Greens.

A meet­ing of the Gal­way West Fianna Fáil ex­ec­u­tive has been called on Mon­day to dis­cuss the pro­posal, which Mr Ó Cuív has said could split the party.

Nei­ther the So­cial Democrats nor the Greens have stated any pub­lic view as yet on the gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion talks.

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