DUBLIN, March 5 — The leader of Ireland’s Fianna Fail party today said it was prepared to enter a coalition government with centre-right rival Fine Gael after inconclusive elections.
Micheal Martin’s party narrowly won last month’s general election with 38 seats, ahead of Sinn Fein on 37. Fine Gael, led by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, trailed in third on 35.
None of the three main parties secured enough seats for an outright majority in the 160-seat lower house of parliament, the Dail, prompting coalition talks.
Asked whether he would do a deal with Fine Gael, Martin told RTE: “Yes, depending on a programme for government that works and that represents a new direction in terms of housing, health and climate change.”
A surge in popular support for Sinn Fein — once the political wing of Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitaries — recast Ireland’s political landscape at the February 8 vote.
Their left-wing policies on tackling a housing and healthcare crisis found favour with the public. Leader Mary Lou McDonald has pushed for them to have a legitimate place in government.
But talks are deadlocked and Martin has ruled out a deal with Sinn Fein, which has long been tarnished by its past links to the IRA, which fought for decades over British rule in Northern Ireland.
It wants a referendum on uniting the two parts of the island within five years.
Martin last month cited “irreconcilable differences” between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, adding that he would instead talk to “like-minded” parties to try to form a government.
Fianna Fail propped up the minority Fine Gael government in the last parliament.
Varadkar, who has said he is prepared to go into opposition, has since resigned as taoiseach (prime minister). He is acting in a caretaker capacity until a new administration is in place. — AFP