Martin rules out coalition with Fine Gael

Voters are tired of politicians in Leinster House talking endlessly about making up numbers, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin declared as he ruled out a coalition with Fine Gael.

His comments came after Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney continued to face reprimand from Government partners Labour for saying he could work with Fianna Fáil after the next election.

One former Labour minister said Mr Coveney’s remarks had “soured” relations with his party and that Taoiseach Enda Kenny needed to make a statement and clear the air.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner published this week, Mr Coveney said Fianna Fáil’s Mr Martin was “very competent”. The Fine Gael director of policy for elections said he had “no ideological problem” forming a coalition with Fianna Fáil if his party could not make up the numbers with Labour after the election.

The remarks provoked fury among not only Labour, but Fine Gael TDs, and were deemed “disloyal” by junior health minister Kathleen Lynch.

However, Mr Martin ruled out any pact with Mr Coveney’s party yesterday, saying: “I’ve said repeatedly Fianna Fáil is not going into government with Sinn Féin and we are not going into government with Fine Gael.

“We’ve had no talks with anybody. Our focus is on getting policies and ideas that can bring solutions to the problems that people face today and to the future.”

Mr Martin, a constituency colleague of Mr Coveney’s in Cork South Central, added: “People get tired of politicians in Leinster House talking endlessly about making up numbers and who will go into coalition with whom. It was surprising in terms of the comments that hemade. He has drawn a lot of ire from others.”

Former development minister Joe Costello also criticised the suggestion. “This is going to cause a considerable degree of sourness and could cause friction within the coalition partners,” he said.

“I think it is unhealthy for anybody to be speculating as to what the future partnership might be,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “The Labour party has had a difficult time with some Fine Gael ministers in terms of the manner in which they have conducted their business and left a lot of debris behind that had to be picked up, that had to be cleared up.”

Mr Costello suggested Mr Kenny should make it clear he did not stand over Mr Coveney’s comments.

However, some Fine Gael TDs had an open mind . Clare TD Pat Breen said: “People’s views are mixed on this. I certainly think there would be problems with Fianna Fáil, but at the same time one cannot rule out any make up from the next general election, particularly if you want to have political stability.”

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said he was ruling nothing out after the next election: “Our Government is working well. Let’s see what the results are and after that let’s look at the options if we don’t have a majority, but I believe that we will have.”

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