Simon Harris: It's up to Sinn Féin to make the next move

Simon Harris: It's up to Sinn Féin to make the next move

Fine Gael's Simon Harris says the onus is on Sinn Féin to make the first move when it comes to forming a new Government.

As the dust settled on the final counts for the 33rd Dáil, there was 'radio silence' from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his party is not due to gather until Monday.

But Mr Harris made it clear that Fine Gael will not be making approaches to other parties in the short run, as it finished in third place.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Harris said that Fine Gael’s policy on a government with Sinn Féin has been “consistent” before, during and after the election.

“We will talk with any and all parties about forming a government, with the exception of Sinn Féin. Because while Sinn Féin have a mandate, and I respect that mandate, I have a mandate too and so do my Fine Gael colleagues. And that mandate clearly was not going into government with Sinn Féin,” he said.

There had been suggestions that Fine Gael, in order to allow a Government be formed, would abstain on a vote to make Mary Lou McDonald Taoiseach, but Mr Harris rejected this out of hand.

He said that he would “never abstain on a vote for a Sinn Féin candidate as Taoiseach”, and that abstaining for a Sinn Féin leader to be Taoiseach is “the exact same as voting for them” because it would have the same result.

The Wicklow TD said that the process should be that Sinn Féin try to form a government, but added that centre parties still won “a hell of a lot of votes”.

You would swear from some media commentary that everyone voted Sinn Féin.

“We’re talking about this as though there’s a massive lead for one party. In terms of the numbers in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil has the most seats — by one, followed by Sinn Féin, followed by Fine Gael, two behind. We have three large blocs here.

Nobody has a divine right to be Taoiseach.

"I heard Mary Lou talking on the RTÉ News last night. You’d swear she had 80 seats [an overall Dáil majority],” he said.

However, another Fine Gael minister said the option of his party “sitting on the sidelines” in formation talks would be irresponsible.

Outgoing Fine Gael junior minister, Ciarán Cannon, warned against such an approach. The Minister of State for International Development said that such an approach would be irresponsible.

He tweeted: “Being elected to Dáil Éireann brings with it an obligation to act responsibly in the interests of our country. Sitting on sidelines waiting for SF to form a government of the irresponsible is not an option. @LeoVaradkar @MichealMartinTD & @EamonRyan need to talk. It’s a new era.”

Other party colleagues voiced support for Mr Cannon's viewpoint. Dublin-based councillor, Jim O'Leary, said he fully agrees with the Galway minister.

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