Mary Lou McDonald. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Anthony Neeson
With just days remaining before Ireland goes to the polls, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have reiterated that they will not go into government with Sinn Féin.
This comes as the Sinn Féin surge in recent opinion polls continued over the weekend. One poll has both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil on 24 percent support, with Fine Gael pushed into third place on 21 percent.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has claimed the Fianna Fáil can’t be trusted on keeping Sinn Féin out of government.
“The Fine Gael position on this is absolutely unequivocal. We won’t consider a coalition with Sinn Féin after the election and that’s down to their policies, the fact that they are soft on crime and high on tax.”
He added: “I don’t trust Fianna Fáil because quite a lot of their candidates have said that they would be open to coalition with Sinn Féin – Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher, Darragh O’Brien, John McGuinness, Kevin O’Keeffe and Mary Butler.”
Hitting back, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said: “The taoiseach is on this message but judge me by my action in 2016. I could have engaged with Sinn Féin after that election, I could have but I didn’t engage with them.”
He added: “We will not go into government with Sinn Féin because of how they continue to endorse the past and try and shove it down people’s throats as a correct, just war, which killed innocent people.”
While the two main parties have been distracted by Sinn Féin’s popularity in opinion polls, the republican party has been free to campaign on housing, health, rent and pensions, where finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has been hammering home the mantra that it is time to give workers and families a financial break.
One of the big messages coming out of the opinion polls is the need for change. That message has even made its way to the corridors of RTÉ.
On Monday, RTÉ’s general election steering committee met to consider whether Mary Lou McDonald can participate in Tuesday night’s leaders’ debate which was to originally include just Fine Gael’s Varadkar and Fianna Fáil’s Martin.
The national broadcaster had come under pressure in the wake of recent opinion polls in the run-up to Saturday’s general election.
After a meeting that lasted several hours RTÉ issued an invite to Ms. McDonald to take part in the leaders’ debate.
With only days to go, it’s all to play for.