Labour leader Brendan Howlin open to coalition with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has put rival parties on future coalition alert, saying he will speak to “everybody” after the next election — including Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Brendan Howlin: Labour can double seats at next election.

Mr Howlin made the comment as he outright rejected suggestions his party should stay out of power to continue rebuilding, and confirmed Labour will run two people in key constituencies to try and sweep up extra votes for the main candidate.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner before his party’s annual conference in Wexford this weekend, he said that while he will not lead Labour “gushingly to anybody who rings my door”, he will “discuss [a potential coalition] with everybody”.

While it is widely accepted a return to Fine Gael may be considered, when asked specifically about Fianna Fáil, Mr Howlin said its “chameleon” nature means it may be open to Labour policies.

Similarly asked about Sinn Féin if it replaced Gerry Adams as leader, Mr Howlin said while there is “a lot of baggage there now”, the party has “genuine progressives” in its ranks.

“I couldn’t be a member of Fianna Fáil because it’s a party whose underlying issue is power,” he said. 

“They’re chameleons, but that makes it easier to negotiate a programme of government with them.”

Asked about Sinn Féin and Mr Adams, he added: “I’ve always tried never to comment on the leadership of other parties. Sinn Féin is a unique entity because whatever Gerry Adams says, clearly it has or had a military dimension.

“I think it’s struggling to change itself and there’s no doubt there are good people in Sinn Féin who are genuine progressives, but there’s a lot of baggage there now.

“Who knows who will be leading any parties by the time those decisions are made, but as I say, we’d be happy to talk to anybody if we’re in a position to do that.”

Mr Howlin’s comments are likely to put fresh focus on potential combinations after the next election, given the hung nature of the current Dáil and repeated opposition calls for a broad left coalition.

They will be added to by the fact Mr Howlin also rejected suggestions Labour should remain in opposition regardless of the next election result to regrow fully.

Meanwhile, the Labour leader has confirmed his party will run two people in key constituencies in the next election to sweep up extra votes for the main candidate.

While the latest Red C/Sunday Business Post poll placed Labour on just 6%, he said he believes it can double its Dáil seats to 14.

He rejected claims Labour is at risk of being squeezed out by Sinn Féin and Solidarity-PBP, saying:

“We’re not the PDs, we’re not Renua or some outfit that comes out of the morning mist and disappears again. We’re the oldest party in the State.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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