A number of senior Fianna Fáil TDs have insisted that their party will not go into coalition with Sinn Féin following next Saturday’s election despite an ever-growing rumbling from the party’s base that such an eventuality should be on the table.
Speaking at the party’s headquarters in Dublin ahead of the final week of the campaign, finance spokesman Michael McGrath said that if enacted Sinn Féin’s budgetary proposals, which include massive increases in public spending and taxes on high earners, would leave Ireland a “very cold place to do business”.
He said that his leader Micheál Martin’s insistence that coalition with Sinn Féin is an impossibility simply reflects the “consistent” nature of Mr Martin’s approach since the 2016 election.
The latest opinion poll from the Business Post suggests that Sinn Féin has now leapfrogged Fine Gael and is running neck and neck with Fianna Fáil on 24% support.
Mr McGrath said that the one consistency of the various polls that have been conducted is that people “want Fine Gael out of Government”.
Returning to his previous talking points regarding Fine Gael running a “project fear, negative” campaign, he said that Fianna Fáil by contrast “is the only party that is in a position to lead a new government and deliver realistic and meaningful change”.
He said that “in our view too much time has been dragged into process and polling stories” with “too much time wasted on debates and interviews”.
“This week we are going to try and drag the election back to where we believe it should be… about who has the deliverable policies to deliver a change in approach,” he said.
Beside him, his party’s spokesman on health Stephen Donnelly dismissed comments made this morning by the Taoiseach that a vote for Fianna Fáil would stymie “social progress”. “It’s negative, negative, negative, it’s very Trumpian Nigel Farage type politics and it doesn’t have a place here”.
“Fine Gael are trying to muddy the waters. All of the other parties have been broadly positive - look what’s been coming out of Fine Gael,” he said.
“In terms of social change, let’s talk about the facts. Micheál Martin made a landmark speech on the Eighth, while Leo Varadkar sat back and did nothing for months and months. (Mr Varadkar) and Simon Harris both went on a journey on repeal of the Eighth. They both started off staunchly against it, then they came out for it.”
He added that the Taoiseach was “initially against a referendum on gay marriage”.
“For Leo Varadkar to be trying to politicise it (the repeal the eighth campaign) at this late stage is a mark of desperation,” he said.
Mr McGrath, who himself held a high profile opposition to abortion across the Eighth campaign, said that “we have had a referendum, the Irish people have had their say, we had a decisive result which has been implemented through legislation and that is how it should be”.
He described Leo Varadkar’s description of certain “backwoodsmen” in Fianna Fáil who may be holding the party back as symptomatic of the “personalised, nasty approach to politics we have seen from the Taoiseach in particular and Fine Gael in general”.
Regarding Sinn Féin’s budgetary approach exemplifying “fantasy policies”, Mr McGrath said: “They will not add up in the real world.”
Mr McGrath insisted that his leader’s dismissal of Sinn Féin is being carried out “with the full authority and backing of the Fianna Fáil party”.
“There will be no coalition between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin after this election.”
He referenced Sinn Féin’s promises on spending - which, at between €18bn and €22bn would seem to be double the notional amount of fiscal space the Department of Finance has said may be available - and said the “would unquestionably damage jobs in Ireland and affect our attractiveness as a place for investment”.
Regarding the consistent nature of the polls over the past two weeks, he said that “a lot of people make up their mind quite late in the day”.
“Sinn Féin and others have very cleverly tried to paint Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil with one brush and I want to deal with that head on because it’s absolutely untrue,” he said. “There are dramatic differences,” he said, between the parties, citing differences of approach between the two on housing, health, the pension age, and insurance.
“They go low, we go high,” he said, appropriating a well-known soundbite of former American first lady Michelle Obama.