By Joe Leogue
Táiniste Simon Coveney has said Fine Gael does not want a General Election this summer - but has admitted that the nature of minority governments means his party will “have to be ready” to go to the polls.
Mr Coveney made the comments amid speculation as to whether Fianna Fáil would break the confidence and supply agreement it made with the government by supporting or abstaining from any potential motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.
“Fine Gael isn’t going to be threatened by opposition parties like Sinn Féin threatening no-confidence motions,” Mr Coveney said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cork University Hospital this morning.
Mr Coveney said Mr Murphy - who succeeded him as Housing Minister - is facing a ‘huge challenge’ in his portfolio but is making progress that will take time to address the accommodation problems faced across the country.
“Yes, there are pressures on the housing market, but I think in some ways Sinn Féin are looking to exploit those pressures for political gain and we’re not putting up with that. We are happy to debate and discuss housing and we do it virtually every week in the Dáil,” Mr Coveney said.
“But the focus of the Taoiseach, my focus, and the focus of our party, with our partners the Independents in government, is to provide the best governance we can, to take on pressures and provide solutions to problems but also to continue the extraordinary gains that we have made economically over the last five or seven years.
“Our focus is on providing the best governance we can, given the environment and challenges we face and not an election, but that doesn’t mean that the party won’t be ready should it be triggered unexpectedly,” Mr Coveney said.
Mr Coveney also ruled out any coalition between his party and Sinn Féin after the next election. In her first ard fheis speech as Sinn Féin party leader on Saturday night, Mary Lou McDonald said her party would not be excluded from government by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
Asked about her comments, Mr Coveney said there was ‘nothing new here’.
“Fine Gael have been very clear, we have no intention of forming a government with Sinn Fein. The Taoiseach has said it, I’ve said it, so many other people have said it. We just don’t think the policy platforms between the two parties are compatible.
“Sinn Fein is a high tax, high spend party. That’s the approach that I think will take us backwards rather than forwards in terms of growing and sustaining an economic model that can continue to build Ireland into the kind of country that we want, which is top quality public services, a more sustainable economy that’s going to move away from the boom and bust cycle that has been the hallmark of the last thirty years.