'A party that has a casual relationship with democracy': Sinn Féin rallies criticised by Taoiseach

“They want to be shut out, hence no serious effort to form a government of the left.”

'A party that has a casual relationship with democracy': Sinn Féin rallies criticised by Taoiseach

By Daniel McConnell and Cianan Brennan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has hit out at Sinn Féin's plans to hold rallies, describing them as a campaign of "intimation and bullying".

Mr Varadkar said Sinn Féin are “more interested in rallies” than seeking to actually form a government.

“They want to be shut out, hence no serious effort to form a government of the left,” he said.

He was speaking after Sinn Féin organised a number of public meetings on both sides of the Irish border to drum up support in its bid to be part of the next government.

The first public rally is being held in Cork tonight.

Earlier, Mr Varadkar said the plans are an "unwelcome development".

"Generally what happens in a democracy is people vote, the votes are counted and then parties try to form a government," he said.

What's happening here ... it seems that Sinn Féin, having won less than a quarter of the vote, are behaving as if they have won a majority. My party regularly won more than a quarter of the vote and didn't get into government.

"I think these rallies are designed to be the next phase in Sinn Féin's campaign of intimation and bullying. We saw that online and now we are seeing it in their rallies, and I wouldn't be surprised if the next step is that they take it to the streets. It just shows you, again, that they are not a normal party; this is a party that has a casual relationship with democracy."

Mr Varadkar is meeting Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Tuesday.

The Fine Gael leader previously said his party was preparing to go into opposition.

Mr Varadkar denied that the meeting between the two leaders is a change in Fine Gael's approach to government: "As I said last week, we would be willing to engage in exploratory talks with any party that wants to speak to us."

"That's happening with Fianna Fáil and the Greens this week. Labour has its own issues and doesn't want to talk, and Social Democrats cancelled their meeting we offered them, so really it's just exploratory discussions at this point with Fianna Fáil and the Greens this week. What I would say is that the onus really still falls with Sinn Féin to form a government."

Sinn Fein dismissed as “hysterics” the criticisms it has received from the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael regarding the public rallies it will hold over the course of the week about Government formation.

Speaking at Leinster House this afternoon, Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin’s lead negotiator, said that suggestions earlier from the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that his party has a “casual relationship” with democracy and is acting like it got the largest vote amount to “pure hysterics”.

“We did get the largest mandate, but other parties got a mandate also which is why we’re intensifying negotiations with them,” Mr Doherty said.

Meanwhile, Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, said his party will hold several meetings with its membership around the country in the weeks ahead. This is similar to the rallies that Sinn Féin has organised, he said.

Mr Ryan said that rather than criticising one another, political parties need to look to what they have in common.

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