Micheál Martin won’t rule out Fine Gael deal

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has repeatedly refused to rule out a post- general election deal with Fine Gael, amid mounting fears of a hung Dáil.
Micheál Martin won’t rule out Fine Gael deal

Mr Martin has softened his stance in recent days from completely ruling out such a scenario to one where he said he will not engage in “speculative discussions about hypotheticals”.

The refusal of Mr Martin to definitively rule out some form of arrangement with Fine Gael comes as the first televised leaders’ debate of the campaign took place last night on TV3.

Momentum has been building within Fianna Fáil for the party to consider such an arrangement with Fine Gael, with several of Mr Martin’s chief lieutenants, such as Niall Collins and Barry Cowen, saying the matter should be given consideration.

At the launch of his party’s manifesto, Mr Martin was given six separate opportunities by the media to close the door on such a deal but failed to do so.

Mr Martin was pressed repeatedly about whether he and his party would do some form of a deal with Fine Gael, but he repeatedly refused to be drawn on it or more significantly to definitively rule it out.

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He said such speculation was “bordering on the ridiculous”.

He added that “if I were to put it in the context of a horse running a race and has a ditch to jump followed by a wall, well, if it keeps its eye on the wall it’ll end up in the ditch”.

Meanwhile, last night’s opening leadership debate for Election 2016 saw party leaders turn on Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and highlight his association with republican actions, as well as his call to scrap the Special Criminal Court.

Mr Adams was first to open up the attack lines in the TV3 debate, saying the leaders of the other three parties had brought “chaos” to the country, overseeing policies of “boom and bust”.

He attempted to land blow after blow on Tánaiste Joan Burton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny, saying that Mr Kenny would be €12,000 richer under Fine Gael’s own tax change plans.

Mr Adams claimed that there would be no tax increases for people earning under €100,000 if Sinn Féin was in power.

However, all party leaders, including Mr Martin, rounded on Mr Adams as the debate moved between topics such as health, crime, and the economy.

Mr Adams’ attempts though to highlight Garda cutbacks and concerns about gang crime were overshadowed by the other leaders highlighting his association with republicans.

Ms Burton in particular questioned Mr Adams’ party’s call to abolish the non-jury Special Criminal Court, saying that the Offences against the State Act was the “bulwark” of protection” against terrorists. Mr Martin highlighted the disappearance of Belfast woman Jean McConville and the kneecapping of people in the North. He insisted Fianna Fáil would not go into power with Sinn Féin.

Mr Kenny highlighted the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe and insisted that — if returned to government — that his party would introduce a second criminal court.

Earlier, Mr Kenny defended Fine Gael’s plans to scrap USC for earners and claw back savings for higher earners. His party — if returned — wanted to help create 200,000 jobs and bring back 70,000 emigrants.

Ms Burton avoided questions about cutbacks to vulnerable people under her tenure as well as cuts to health. She instead focused on job creation, with presenter Colette Fitzpatrick at one stage saying: “Joan Burton, we’re done talking about the economy.”

But later, Ms Burton bounced back, landing a tough blow on Mr Adams, saying his party’s policies and high taxes were a “job killer” and were “fuzzy economics”.

Throughout the first half of the debate, Mr Kenny remained largely quiet, except for when he was attacked by Mr Martin.

There was mixed reaction to the debate, which was peppered with confused shouting from all sides.

Straw polls carried out immediately online declared Mr Martin as having won, while Mr Kenny’s decision not to get involved wholeheartedly was viewed as a weakness by some and statesmanlike by others.

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