Sinn Fein path to power blocked as Fianna Fail rules out deal

Sinn Fein path to power blocked as Fianna Fail rules out deal

Sinn Fein supporters
Sinn Fein supporters hold a national flag as votes are counted in Ireland's national election, in Dublin, on Feb 9, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

DUBLIN: Ireland's largest party Fianna Fail has ruled out going into government with Sinn Fein, a senior lawmaker said, in a move that is likely to prevent the left-wing nationalists from entering power for the first time.

The move raises the chances of Ireland being forced to go to the polls again in the coming months, a development analyst have said could further boost Sinn Fein, whose support surged 50 per cent in last weekend's election in part due to anger at a housing crisis.

The centre-right Fianna Fail party will seek to form a government that does not include Sinn Fein, senior Fianna Fail lawmaker Niall Collins told Reuters as he left a meeting of the party's lawmakers.

"We gave the party leader licence to speak to whoever he needs to speak to, with the exception of a Sinn Fein," Collins said. The party is fully behind the position, he added.

Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and the centre-right Fine Gael Party of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar each secured just under a quarter of seats in parliament in elections last weekend, meaning it will be hard to form a government unless at least two of the three cooperate.

Fine Gael, which has 35 seats in the 160-seat parliament, has already ruled out a deal with Sinn Fein, which is on 37. Fianna Fail is the largest party with 38 seats.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have long shunned Sinn Fein, citing policy differences and the party's historic links to the IRA, which fought British rule in Northern Ireland for decades in a conflict in which some 3,600 people were killed before a 1998 peace deal.

Both parties are also opposed to Sinn Fein's high-spending promises, its pledge to scrap property tax and plans to hike income taxes on high earners they say would discourage foreign multinationals that employ one-in-10 Irish workers.

Surveys showed that voters rejected the traditional parties over the campaign issues of healthcare and the high cost and low availability of housing, won over by Sinn Fein's high-spending promises and a pledge to freeze residential rents.

Sinn Fein on Thursday effectively admitted it could not enter power without one of the two large parties, with leader Mary Lou McDonald telling reporters it would be "very, very tricky to construct such a government."

Asked what the most likeliest government was now, Collins said "who knows, it may not be possible" to form a government.

Asked if Fianna Fail would talk to Fine Gael about the formation of a government, Collins said, "That wasn’t really discussed."

Some Fianna Fail lawmakers suggested the party could lead a minority government similar to the previous administration Varadkar led via a co-operation deal with Fianna Fail, then the main opposition party.

But Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of Fine Gael repeated his personal view that another minority government was not a good idea after both parties suffered in the election.

Another such arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail would allow Sinn Fein to continue to build in opposition, Coveney told national broadcaster RTE.

Source: Reuters/de