Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has acknowledged that it will be “very, very tricky” to construct a Government of the left excluding Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael given how the numbers have fallen after last Saturday’s election.
“What hasn’t changed is the need for any new Government of change to be different, and to deliver differently and in terms of connection with people’s everyday lives,” Ms McDonald said this afternoon at a photo call for her party’s 32 returned TDs at Leinster House.
She said her party is now in discussions with the parties who, along with Sinn Féin, “won the election”, they being the Social Democrats and the Green Party.
Today’s meeting with the former had been “a very good meeting, a very constructive meeting, and we’re going to talk again”, she said.
However, she acknowledged that she had also written to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. “I haven’t had a response to that correspondence, but I would also hope to meet with him,” she said, adding the caveat “there are huge differences between ourselves and Fianna Fáil”.
She added that so far as she is concerned Mr Martin’s position of unwillingness to enter Government with Sinn Féin is “untenable”.
“To say that he will not speak to us, to people who represent such a significant section of Irish opinion and citizens… anyone who followed the election can’t have missed the appetite for change, it was writ large,” she said.
Asked regarding the possibility now mooted that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens might form a grand coalition without Sinn Féin, she said that “our analysis is that the best outcome is a totally new Government without Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, I accept that the numbers make that very, very difficult”.
“The worst outcome would be five more years of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together. I strongly believe that would be step backwards, and I absolutely know that that is not the Government that people voted for,” she said.
In terms of Dáil salaries should Sinn Féin representatives attain ministerial office, Ms McDonald said that things would continue as they currently do, with deputies contributing €2,500 from their salary to the party each year with their constituency office funded from the remainder.
The party finally abandoned its mandatory requirement that TDs only take home the average industrial wage in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Since then the policy has been a voluntary one.
“I imagine it would be the same because as you know the party has grown enormously and we are represented in multiple institutions,” she said, adding the party “cannot inappropriately intervene in that”.
“There’s nobody in Sinn Féin who is elected to any office for big careers or big money.”
Ms McDonald said she is “concerned that the British State is rowing back” on legacy issues in Northern Ireland with the sacking of Northern Secretary Julian Smith.
“We had commitments from Julian Smith that he would move fairly swiftly on these matters,” she said.
Mr Smith, who had only been in his role for a number of months, had received broad acclaim for successfully overseeing the restoration of the Northern Irish executive after a period of three years without an administration.
“We will look to see who Julian Smith’s replacement is, and we’ll be looking to meet with them as a matter of absolute urgency,” she said.
Asked meanwhile whether or not she would agree with one of her party’s advisers who tweeted - and subsequently deleted - if Sinn Féin representatives “could desist from making unnecessary comments that do nothing but sabotage recent and volatile electoral success”, Ms McDonald was unequivocal.
“Absolutely, bravo,” she said.