Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to media in Cabra, Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson

Mary Lou McDonald warns smaller parties of FF-FG coalition


Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has warned smaller left-leaning parties against shoring up a grand coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, after the two parties ruled out entering government with Sinn Féin.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party backed leader Micheál Martin’s position to not enter coalition with Sinn Féin, following a lengthy meeting on Thursday. Fine Gael has also ruled out entering coalition with Sinn Féin.

Speaking on Friday, Ms McDonald was critical of the “old boys club” of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who she said by refusing to consider government formation talks with Sinn Féin “believe they are entitled to hold power” between themselves.

“So if we have to fight another election okay let’s have the election, but what needs to change here is the mindset, the mentality, the sense of entitlement that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael hold, that day is over,” she said.

Ms McDonald said her message to smaller parties such as the Greens or the Social Democrats would be “don’t give way” to approaches to form a coalition with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin won a record 37 seats in an election which saw its candidates top the polls in constituencies across the country last weekend. Fianna Fáil returned 38 seats and Fine Gael 35 seats, both down on their 2016 general election results.!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg

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If the two traditional “Civil War” parties were to form a grand coalition it would need the support of smaller parties, or several Independent TDs, to reach a Dáil majority of 80.

Ms McDonald said she intended to call Mr Martin on Friday to press him to sit down and talk about forming a “government of change” with Sinn Féin.

“I will be saying to him that we need to sit down and talk, not to shoot the breeze or to exchange Valentine’s Day greetings, but to actually get down to the real business of the day,” she said.

“And that is about creating, fashioning a government of change, and nobody gets off the hook on their responsibilities in this regard simply because the mathematics is difficult,” she said.

The Sinn Féin leader was speaking to the media before an event at the Cabra parkside community sports centre, in north Dublin.

“I haven’t heard anybody dispute the fact that the majority of people who voted would regard a return of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as a disaster,” she said.

The two parties were “insisting that they and they alone are allowed to hold power,” Ms McDonald said.

“People do not want Fine Gael back in with Fianna Fáil in any guise, they do not want Simon Harris back in health, they do not want Eoghan Murphy back in housing,” she said.

Earlier on Friday, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin TD said based on the numbers a majority government of Sinn Féin and other smaller left wing parties would not be workable. The comments were criticised by People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett as “throwing in the towel” too early on the prospect to form a historic left leaning government.