Sinn Féin has held a seven-and-a-half hour meeting involving “detailed discussions on policy” with the Green Party and has agreed to meet once more next week.
Despite the lengthy nature of the meeting at the Department of Agriculture, carbon tax which is generally perceived as a key stalling point between the two parties was “not dwelt upon in any major form”, according to lead negotiator Pearse Doherty.
Mr Doherty said the meeting had been “very productive”, and dismissed the idea that attempts to form a left-wing Government had now effectively stalled, as claimed by Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin earlier in the afternoon.
“We’re keeping all options open,” Mr Doherty said.
“We want to be in Government, we have a lot of common ground with other parties such as the Greens. They’re the discussions we’re having.”
He said he doesn’t know whether or not Sinn Féin would invite Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to further discussions given the firm stances being taken by those parties’ leaders, but added that in his opinion grassroots Fianna Fáil voters were not impressed by Mr Martin’s stance of refusing to enter into negotiations with Sinn Fein.
One thing Mr Doherty agreed on with Mr Martin is that a Government is not likely to be formed by the time the Dáil reconvenes on March 5. He said the coming week will be about “finding common ground” between parties with a view to forming a Government.
Mr Doherty said he does not agree with the suggestion, made by Green leader Eamon Ryan, that a Government will not be possible without the involvement of two of the big three parties.
“I don’t subscribe to that,” he said. “We want to be in Government. Other parties know the sincerity that we have. We haven’t ruled anything in or out, but it’s up to others whether they’re going to engage with us, in the absence of people playing childish games, not recognising our mandate and hurling insults at the people who voted for us. We’re just keeping on with the work and trying to find as much common ground as possible.
“Micheál Martin is doing what Micheal Martin is doing, Leo Varadkar has said he is going into opposition. (Fianna Fáil) has already made one significant u-turn in terms of what it promised its voters by seeking to go into Government with Fine Gael. So we’ll wait to see how that plays out,” he said.
“We will not allow anyone to disrespect the mandate that we have, and I think the approach and hysterics from Micheál and Leo has not played out well for them, both with Sinn Féin voters and their own voters.”
He said that carbon tax “was raised among many, many issues” in the mammoth meeting with the Greens.
“There are differences between the parties in relation to the position on carbon tax. That’s an area that will need further discussion,” he said. “The Greens can speak for themselves, but the priority here is to have emissions targets met in terms of a 7% annual reduction. What we were teasing out is the ways we can bring that about using the modelling from the Department (of Climate Action).”