Sinn Féin-led minority government worth exploring – Boyd Barrett

Sinn Féin-led minority government worth exploring – Boyd Barrett

Additional reporting by Brian Hutton

Sinn Féin is warning other parties of an “urgency” in forming a new government, as it vows to “intensify” coalition talks as quickly as possible.

Pearse Doherty, the party’s chief negotiator in attempts to form an administration, said the party will be telling smaller left-leaning parties today there is a “huge opportunity to change the face of Ireland.”

“We don’t want to sit back,” he said.

“We think there is an urgency in relation to this - there should be no delay in government formation. There are big issues that need to be sorted.”

Mr Doherty told Newstalk: “What I want to do, as the lead person in our negotiating team, is intensify this as quickly as possible. “

Sinn Féin is meeting with a number of smaller parties first as it launches negotiations to a form a government.

Mr Doherty said it has “reached out” to the Greens, People Before Profit, Social Democrats and Labour.

“Obviously our first port of call is to talk to those parties where we would have a common platform, to tease out with the possibility of putting together a government for change,” he said.

However, he added a government for change “isn’t about who is in it” but about the politics on the key issues.

“Our key objective here is to turn mandate for change into a government for change, that delivers on the big issues.”

There may be “individuals elected who have no interest in government”, he said, but Sinn Féin would speak to all parties and “it will be up to those to decide if they want to be part of those conversations or not”.

“It make absolute sense that the first people we talk to are people where we have a large degree of commonality, parties who also got a mandate for change and to see what appetite is there for a government,” he added.

“That’s why the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Labour Party, People Before Profit are the parties we will discuss with in the first instance, and then we will continue those discussions with other parties.”

Sinn Féin-led minority government worth exploring – Boyd Barrett

A minority Sinn Féin-led government may not last long but it could still achieve progress on key domestic issues, Solidarity/People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has said.

Mr Boyd Barrett said Mary Lou McDonald will struggle to find enough like-minded allies to reach the 80-seat threshold required for a majority in the Dáil.

But Mr Boyd Barrett said it was still worth “exploring” the possibility of a minority administration.

Such a government would require an understanding with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, through some form of confidence and supply arrangement, that would see them abstain on key votes from the opposition benches.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has indicated a desire to be the next taoiseach (Niall Carson/PA).
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has indicated a desire to be the next taoiseach (Niall Carson/PA).

Senior Sinn Féin representatives are set to hold talks with smaller parties today as they assess the viability of its desired government of the left.

Sinn Féin would need to secure the support of the Greens, Labour, the Social Democrats and Solidarity/People Before Profit, and a range of independent TDs, to form such an administration.

Asked about the prospects of a minority Sinn Féin-led government, Mr Boyd Barrett said: “It wouldn’t be sustainable for very long but I still think it’s worth exploring if we could do something to urgently address the housing crisis, some of the problems in the health service with the desperate waiting lists, some of the issues around climate change and the cost of living.

“I think anything that could give expression and delivery to the sentiment that people expressed at the ballot box during the election would be worth exploring and I am absolutely keen to do it and People Before Profit are absolutely keen to try to do that.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin faces some big decisions on how his party will approach government formation talks (Yui Mok/PA)
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin faces some big decisions on how his party will approach government formation talks (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Boyd Barrett told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland his party was keen to talk with Sinn Féin and other left wing parties about the potential of forming a government together.

“We very much want to see a left government and we were the first to articulate that as a possibility at the outset of this campaign and I think it resonated with huge numbers of people that it was possible to break the cycle of Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael rule and open the way for a government of the left, so we’re delighted there’s been a big shift in Irish politics towards the left and we want to explore with other parties of the left, or who put forward left wing policies, the possibility of forming such a government, but the raw numbers would suggest we’re a bit short of a majority.”

Many believe it will be impossible to form a government without the involvement of one of either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

A coalition of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Green Party – which ended with 12 seats – is seen as a potentially more realistic option.

Another permutation could see the exclusion of Sinn Féin, with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil entering power together in a so-called “grand coalition” with another smaller party or grouping.

Fianna Fáil could also potentially seek to form a minority government with several of the smaller parties – an administration that would require a confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael on the opposition benches.

That would reverse the landmark pact struck in 2016 that saw Fianna Fáil, as the main opposition party, sustain the last Fine Gael-led minority government in power.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin (Liam McBurney/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out a coalition with Sinn Féin (Liam McBurney/PA)

With so much uncertainty about the make-up of the next government, another general election cannot be ruled out.

Fianna Fáil emerged from Saturday’s election as the largest party by the narrowest margin over the surging Sinn Féin.

Micheál Martin’s party finished with 38 seats to Sinn Féin’s 37 at the end of two days of counting.

But given the Fianna Fáil speaker was re-elected without contest, both parties essentially “won” the same number of seats.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael was the big loser, recording the second-worst result in its history, winning only 35 seats having entered the campaign as the largest party on 47.

Despite being edged in seat numbers, Sinn Féin was undoubtedly the party with most to celebrate, having smashed Ireland’s long-standing two-party system.

Mary Lou McDonald’s party triumphed in the popular vote and may have won many more seats – potentially an additional 11 – if it had fielded more candidates in the landmark contest.

As such, momentum is behind her in taking the first steps in what could be a long and tortuous process to form a new government.

She has predicted she could be Ireland’s next taoiseach.

Sinn Féin supporters enjoyed a landmark election (Niall Carson/PA)
Sinn Féin supporters enjoyed a landmark election (Niall Carson/PA)

Despite receiving the most first preference votes, Sinn Féin’s place in the next government is not guaranteed.

All three major parties are far short of the 80 seats required for a majority so, barring another election, some form of coalition is inevitable.

Either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael may be forced to backtrack on long-standing pledges never to do business with Sinn Féin.

There appear to be differing views within Fianna Fáil, with some members remaining opposed to any alliance with Sinn Féin and others more open to the prospect.

Mr Varadkar has maintained his pre-election stance and ruled out any Fine Gael/Sinn Féin coalition.

Sinn Féin received 24.5% of the vote share on first preference in the election, Fianna Fáil got 22.2% and Fine Gael 20.9%.

The final breakdown of the 160 seats was Fianna Fáil 38, Sinn Féin 37, Fine Gael 35, Greens 12, Labour 6, Social Democrats 6, Solidarity/People Before Profit 5, Aontú 1, Independents4Change 1 and independents 19.

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