Fianna Fáil openly divided over possible talks with Sinn Féin

Divisions have emerged within Fianna Fáil over whether it should enter talks with Sinn Féin about forming a government.

Fianna Fáil openly divided over possible talks with Sinn Féin

Additional reporting by Juno McEnroe

Divisions have emerged within Fianna Fáil over whether it should enter talks with Sinn Féin about forming a government.

On a day when his party lost 14 sitting TDs, Micheál Martin's negotiating position weakened considerably as the party will return with less than forty seats.

As the seats fell, the party was openly divided over the question of dealing with Sinn Féin, with leading figures like Michael McGrath, Jim O'Callaghan and Jack Chambers staunchly against the suggestion.

Others including deputy leader Dara Calleary, Sean Haughey and Robert Troy made it clear the party should respect the votes cast and talk to all parties about forming a Government.

Mr Troy went as far as to call for a special meeting of the parliamentary party to be convened to discuss the Sinn Féin issue.

Sources close to Mr Martin admitted that if a call came from Mary Lou McDonald, that Fianna Fáil would “meet and listen to Sinn Féin and give their response”.

But the source added:

There is a big difference between discussions and sitting down negotiating.

A parliamentary party meeting is also expected to take place this week.

Fianna Fáil officials also have suggested that, if Sinn Féin are serious about governing, they should consider being part of a confidence and supply deal.

But it was a bruising day for the party with some heavy-hitters failing to make it back to the 33rd Dáil.

As of tonight, Declan Breathnach, Lisa Chambers, Timmy Dooley, John Brassil, Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, John Curran, Bobby Aylward, Kevin O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Loughlin, Shane Cassells, Eugene Murphy, Malcolm Byrne, Pat Casey and Pat the Cope Gallagher had all lost their seats.

Others, including Stephen Donnelly and Eamon Scanlon were fighting to keep their seats.

The losses and failures to pick up new seats could leave Fianna Fáil with just 37 TDs, the same as Sinn Féin, a drop of seven from 2016.

There is anger within Fianna Fáil about the losses, especially after the party spent the last nine years in operation.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said:

Some of the losses are devastating. Exceptional colleagues have undeservedly lost seats. I do not see a position of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil being able to reconcile their divergent economic policies. Their policies would damage job creation and the economy and it should not be the road we go down.

Others were equally vocal about not working with Sinn Féin.

Justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said “We gave an assurance prior to the election to the electorate that we wouldn't go into coalition with Sinn Féin. And I don't think it is tenable now for us to change our policy in respect of that.”

Defence spokesman Jack Chambers said: “We set out our position before the election and should stick with it.”

In terms of Fine Gael, Leo Varadkar's leadership was called into question by former TDs and defeated candidates. With the party suffering its worst result since 1948, former Waterford TD Paudie Coffey was the first to call for a change of leader.

He told WLRfm: "I think Leo should reflect on his position, I think he's done his best.

"He didn't achieve what he set out to do, unfortunately - I think he should step aside as leader of Fine Gael. and allow a new re-building of the party from the grassroots up again.”

The Green Party will come back with 11 seats, up from the three they held when the last Dáil was dissolved, a remarkable increase.

The Social Democrats also had a good day, trebling the number of TDs from two to six.

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