Fianna Fail TDs worry over talk of Fine Gael coalition

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin’s refusal to rule out entering power with rivals Fine Gael has surprised some TDs, with one deputy declaring such a route would be “bad” for the party’s future.

Several Fianna Fáil TDs said the issue of a potential grand coalition between both parties had yet be discussed and would in any case need the imprimatur of a national conference.

Their reaction comes after an interview with Mr Martin in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, in which he said he has not ruled “anything in or out” after the next general election, a significant shift in the Fianna Fáil leader’s position since last year. Ahead of the 2016 election, Mr Martin ruled out Fianna Fáil entering power with Fine Gael-despite the offer of a rotating Taoiseach position for him.

Fianna Fáil Limerick TD Willie O’Dea told the Irish Examiner he was opposed to such an option and closed to the idea as it would damage Fianna Fail’s future.

“It hasn’t been discussed,” he said. “We will have to obviously though as time moves on. The previous suggestion [for me] remains in place. We need the imprimatur of a special ard fheis anyhow.”

Asked for his personal position on such a coalition, the former defence minister said: “I wouldn’t be well disposed towards it. It would be bad for Fianna Fáil as well as for Fine Gael and it would enable Sinn Féin to grow in opposition, which would not be good for the country.”

Asked though why his party leader had an open mind about a grand coalition, Mr O’Dea said: “Maybe he was looking at the bigger picture, I don’t know. Like if uncertainty wouldn’t be good for the country with a minority government.”

Clare TD Timmy Dooley said he “hadn’t thought about” the option of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael joining forces.

“We’ll wait until the next general election,” he said. “Those kind of conversations are for after then. Those decisions would be taken by the party membership, they will decide, at a special delegate conference.”

Asked about his personal opinion on the parties entering power together, Mr Dooley said: “I don’t have a preference one way or the other.”

Other Fianna Fáil TDs tried to dismiss Mr Martin’s remarks as a distraction from bigger issues.

Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly told RTÉ: “It is really not something that is being considered at all.”

The Wicklow TD said Mr Martin wanted to focus on issues such as housing, and to stop focusing on what he called the “soap opera” of whether Fianna Fail would join power with Fine Gael.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also refused to be drawn into discussion about the issue. Speaking in Waterford, he said: “As far as I’m concerned, I’m head of a government that’s made up of Fine Gael and Independents.

“The Government’s working really well, I want it to continue and to see through our term and do the business and do the work for Irish people, improving their lives, and that’s my objective.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me when I’m in a coalition with Independents to be looking around for the next partner. I don’t think that would be right, I’m very committed to the government we are in.”

Editorial: 10


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