Ir­ish par­ties look to cut deals af­ter poll

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries Dublin

Left-wing na­tion­al­ist party Sinn Fein says it has for­mally re­quested talks with cen­treright ri­val Fianna Fail to dis­cuss op­tions for form­ing a new Ir­ish gov­ern­ment af­ter an in­con­clu­sive elec­tion last week­end.

Left-wing na­tion­al­ist party Sinn Fein says that it has re­quested talks with cen­tre-right ri­val Fianna Fail to dis­cuss the op­tions for form­ing a new Ir­ish gov­ern­ment af­ter the in­con­clu­sive elec­tion at the week­end.

The re­quest puts pres­sure on Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, whose party has 38 seats in the 160-seat par­lia­ment, to clar­ify his po­si­tion on a pos­si­ble tie-up with Sinn Fein, which has 37 seats.

Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and the cen­tre-right Fine Gael Party of Prime Min­is­ter Leo Varad­kar se­cured just un­der a quar­ter of seats in par­lia­ment each, mean­ing it will be hard to form a gov­ern­ment un­less at least two of the three co-op­er­ate.

Sur­veys showed that voters re­jected the tra­di­tional par­ties on the key cam­paign is­sues of health care and the high cost and low avail­abil­ity of hous­ing, won over by Sinn Fein’s high­spend­ing promises and a pledge to freeze res­i­den­tial rents.

Dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, Martin ruled out a deal with Sinn Fein, for­mer po­lit­i­cal wing of the Ir­ish Repub­li­can Army (IRA), but in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the elec­tion he re­fused to com­pletely ex­clude the pos­si­bil­ity.

“Micheal Martin has said ‘I am a demo­crat, I lis­ten to the people and I re­spect the de­ci­sion of the people’, so he knows that the people have voted for change,” Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said in an­nounc­ing that a re­quest for talks had been made. “There is an obli­ga­tion on all of us to act ur­gently,” she said.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have long shunned Sinn Fein, cit­ing policy dif­fer­ences and the party’s his­toric links to the Ir­ish Repub­li­can Army (IRA), which fought Bri­tish rule in North­ern Ire­land for decades in a con­flict in which 3,600 people were killed be­fore 1998’s peace deal.

Both par­ties op­pose Sinn Fein’s high-spend­ing promises, its pledge to scrap prop­erty tax and plans to hike in­come tax on high earn­ers, which they say would dis­cour­age for­eign multi­na­tion­als that em­ploy one in 10 Ir­ish work­ers.

Fianna Fail MPs are di­vided on talk­ing to Sinn Fein. Two MPs, one a se­nior mem­ber of Martin’s front bench, strongly ruled it out on Thurs­day ahead of the party’s first meet­ing since the elec­tion. The Ir­ish Times news­pa­per said Martin was ex­pected to rule out such a coali­tion.

The two MPs, Niall Collins and newly elected Cathal Crowe, sug­gested that Fianna Fail could in­stead lead a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion Varad­kar led via a co-op­er­a­tion deal with then main op­po­si­tion Fianna Fail.

“There are a num­ber of mi­nor­ity type ad­min­is­tra­tions that could be put to­gether with each of the three par­ties in­volved and es­sen­tially un­der­scor­ing a con­fi­dence and sup­ply ar­range­ment,” Collins told na­tional broad­caster RTE.

“It just doesn’t all come around to Fianna Fail here to fix the prob­lem.”

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have dom­i­nated Ir­ish pol­i­tics since it broke from Bri­tish rule nearly a cen­tury ago.

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