Fianna Fáil members who would consider entering Government with Sinn Féin should either remove Micheál Martin as leader or else rule out such a coalition, Fine Gael senator Jerry Buttimer has said.
He made the comment in an election hustings event held by Cork Chamber and the Irish Examiner this morning.
Senator Buttimer said a number of Fianna Fáil members have said they would consider a coalition with Sinn Féin a stance that is at odds with their party leader.
“Ten members said already they are open to going into Government with Sinn Féin,” Mr Buttimer said.
“It is incumbent upon Fianna Fáil members to say 1 they won’t get rid of Micheál Martin and 2 they will categorically rule out going into Government with SF.”
Michael McGrath of Fianna Fáil hit back at his Cork South Central opponent and said Micheál Martin was the only leader who stuck to his word after the last election and stood up to the plate by facilitating the Government and that he deserved credit for taking that stance.
Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said his party had the most coherent post-election strategy.
“We want to be in Government. We will talk to other parties,” he said.
“There are big gaps between us and other parties on policy but there were also big gaps between us and the DUP.”
Much of this morning’s debate, hosted by the Irish Examiner’s political editor Daniel McConnell, was dominated by infrastructure issues for Cork, based on the Cork Chamber’s manifesto, including housing, flood defences and the planned M20 motorway between Cork and Limerick.
The six-member panel was made up of Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath, Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Labour’s John Maher, Green Party’s Oliver Moran and Sinéad Halpin of the Social Democrats.
Oliver Moran of the Green Party defended his party’s stance on the M20 following criticisms of his party leader Eamon Ryan who said it would be better to connect Cork and Limerick using the existing M8 and M7 motorways and us the money saved to invest in the two cities.
“People are being misled on the M20. It’s essentially a lie. My party is committed to the process of looking at the design of that road rather than turning it into a political football,” Mr Moran said.
“It is the transport equivalent of the events centre sod. It gets turned around at every election.”
However other parties members jumped on the Greens.
“Will the Green Party stand up for Cork on the M20?” Mr Buttinmer asked.
“It was the Taoiseach himself as Minister for Transport who pulled the plug on the M20,” Mr Moran said.
Michael McGrath also criticised the then Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar and said the design work for the motorway would be a lot further along if he had not pulled the plug.
Sinead Halpin of the Social Democrats said they were in support of upgrading of the N20.
“But are we interested in moving people or are we interested in moving traffic,” she said and that ultimately we have to look at getting people out of their cars.