Sinn Féin, the party with the largest popular vote in the new Dáil, has kickstarted the race to form a new Government via “constructive” meetings with the Green Party and People Before Profit.
Following an early-morning meeting with Green leader Eamon Ryan, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the discussion had been “useful and constructive”.
The two meetings saw Sinn Féin being its conversations starting with parties on the left, which it said is where the mandate for the next Government has been placed.
"I have made it clear since before the election - and after - that I will speak to all parties in the interests of forming a government; starting with those with a mandate for change,” Ms McDonald said.
"I met this morning with Eamon Ryan... and it was a very useful and constructive meeting,” she said, adding that the two parties had agreed to “begin exchanging ideas”.
We will talk and meet again over the coming days.
Regarding the subsequent meeting with Richard Boyd Barrett and Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit, Ms McDonald said they had had “a good discussion about the potential for a government of change and the issues that might form part of a programme for government” and would likewise remain in touch over the coming days.
On a macro level Sinn Féin and People Before Profit would appear to have much in common in terms of their manifestos, including a desire to reduce the State pension age to 65, radical action on health and housing, and an aversion to any increases in carbon tax.
Mr Boyd Barrett acknowledged that a deal of common ground exists between the parties but said that the detail of any programme for Government remains to be worked out.
“They’re keeping their options open, but we’re only interested in left Government,” he said, adding that Sinn Féin will begin meetings with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael next week.
“We’ve agreed to continue the discussion and we will exchange more detailed papers on what we think the finer details of a programme for Government that we would be willing to support (would look like),” he said.
Mr Boyd Barrett added that Ms McDonald had indicated that no such programme is likely to be agreed before February 20, when the new Dail meets for the first time.
The meeting between People Before Profit and Sinn Féin took place amid confusion over who was being represented by Mr Boyd Barrett, with Solidarity making clear it was not part of the discussion, and RISE TD Paul Murphy calling for all representatives under the banner to negotiate as a bloc.
Mr Boyd Barrett said that the invitation to meet had come directly to People Before Profit, but that the various strands of the party would be meeting “in the next few days” in an attempt “to establish a common view”.
Sinn Féin will next meet with the Social Democrats today, with Labour due to meet with the Green Party.
However, Ms McDonald’s ability to form a Government is further complicated by the fact that both Labour and the Social Democrats have gone on record to say they don’t believe the numbers exist to form such a broad coalition of the left.