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Mary Lou McDonald met with Eamon Ryan today.
Mary Lou McDonald met with Eamon Ryan today.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

'Discussion about the potential for a government of change': Mary Lou McDonald meets with Green Party and People Before Profit

She will meet with the Social Democrats tomorrow.
Feb 12th 2020, 7:43 AM 81,863 165

Updated Feb 12th 2020, 2:00 PM

SINN FÉIN’S MARY Lou McDonald has met with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and People Before Profit representatives today.

Speaking after the meeting with Eamon Ryan, she said:

“I have made it clear since before the election – and after – that I will speak to all parties in the interests of forming a government; starting with those with a mandate for change.

“The Green Party, having increased its mandate significantly, is undoubtedly one of those parties.

“I met this morning with Eamon Ryan TD, leader of the Green Party, and it was a very useful and constructive meeting.

“We have agreed to begin exchanging ideas, and we will talk and meet again over the coming days.”

Speaking to TheJournal.ie last week, Ryan questioned whether the Sinn Féin manifesto would correlate with the Green Party. 

“In terms of us coming to any talks, it is a scale change – it is at least a 7% reduction in emissions,” he said, adding that looking at the Sinn Féin manifesto, “there is no real commitment to that scale of change”.

“We differ on issues like changing our transport system,” he said, but added that the two parties differing views on a carbon tax (the Green Party approve of it, Sinn Féin are against it) might not be such a big stumbling block. 

“It is an important part of the jigsaw, but it is really the spending side and the investment side that I am critical of other parties,” said Ryan.

McDonald also met with representatives of People Before Profit. Commenting following this afternoon’s meeting, McDonald said:

“This afternoon I met with Richard Boyd Barrett TD and Gerry Carroll MLA of People Before Profit, and we had a good discussion about the potential for a government of change and the issues that might form part of a programme for government.

“We have agreed to stay in touch over the coming days. I have also arranged to meet with the Social Democrats tomorrow.”

Solidarity-People Before Profit has a number of areas where its policy overlaps with Sinn Féin, leaving it likely that its TDs could vote for Mary Lou McDonald as Taoiseach when the Dáil resumes next week, according to Richard Boyd Barrett. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie after the meeting, Boyd Barrett said the meeting was “useful” and the two parties said they would exchange papers on what their priorities are in government. 

His view is that Sinn Féin is very much “weighing up its options”. On the similarities, he siad Sinn Féin and People Before Profit both want the retirement age reduced back to 65. Both want a radical increase in social and affordable houses, as well as changing the mandate of Nama and the Land Development Agency so State land can be used for housing. 

He said Sinn Féin’s team listened and asked what commitments would be needed for People Before Profit to vote for Mary Lou McDonald as Taoiseach next week. 

Seats

While McDonald and Ryan sat down for talks today, the Social Democrats held their first parliamentary party meeting after the election, where the party returned with six seats.

Speaking to reporters they said a confidence-and-supply style arrangement is unlikely in the next government and that “it will take some time” before a government is formed as talks begin this week.

The party trebled its stock of TDs from two to six in last weekend’s general election, and the party’s seats will be crucial if a left-bloc, which Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is pushing for, is formed. 

An alternative government could see smaller parties like the Social Democrats go into a confidence-and-supply arrangement with two of the bigger parties but leaders Catherine Murphy and Roisín Shortall have all but ruled it out. 

“We’re going to be having a number of meetings and they’ll be happening tomorrow and Mary Lou McDonald will be one of those. But we said we would speak to everyone before the election and that is what we’re going to do now to see what they possibilities are,” Murphy said. 

“Obviously, the numbers are a critically important aspect of what transpires in the end and I think we’re really at the point of exploring this week, and I think it will take some time before we start seeing shape beyond that.”

The two party leaders will meet with Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin tomorrow, along with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and Labour leader Brendan Howlin. 

McDonald has said her preference is to lead a government without the involvement of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. Her party won 37 seats in the election, compared to 38 for Fianna Fáil and 35 for Fine Gael.

However, if Sinn Féin had run more than 42 candidates, it’s likely its seat number could’ve been far higher given it had the highest share of first preference votes.

Even with the support of the Green Party, Labour, the Social Democrats and Solidarity-People Before Profit, together with Sinn Féin they wouldn’t reach the 81 seats required for a majority.

Boyd Barrett said today that the message from the left “resonated with young people” that it was possible for a government without Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael prior to the general election.

“We’re keen to talk to Mary Lou, the Greens, the Soc Dems, others on the left,” he said. 

He said that while there was a lot of policy overlap between his grouping and Sinn Féin, “people want to see delivery on policies” in the likes of health, housing and other areas.

Boyd Barrett: “For example, restoring the pension age to 65. It was a very popular sentiment and is something we could do immediately. We’ll be urging Mary Lou today to follow through on the likes of that.”

On the possibility of such a government lasting the distance with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil not part of it, Boyd Barrett said it’s still worth a try.

“It probably wouldn’t be sustainable for very long but I still think it’s worth exploring if we could do something that would urgently address the housing crisis, some of the problems in the health service – the desperate waiting lists – some of the issues around climate change and the cost of living,” he said.

Anything that can give expression and delivery to the sentiment people expressed in the ballot box would be worth exploring. I am keen to do it and Solidarity-PBP are keen to do it. We’ll vote for Mary Lou McDonald [to be Taoiseach] as long as we have a deal that delivers in these areas.

Meanwhile, Independent TD Mattie McGrath, whose seat could be crucial to any left-bloc coalition government has said we are in “uncharted territory” but that a government must be formed.

“Given that we are in such unchartered territory and given the absolute necessity of ensuring we have some kind of political stability for our people, then I believe all options should be considered with respect to government formation,” he said.

“The single most important objective here is that we create conditions where the needs of the people can be met. It is time to set aside narrow political interests and to put the needs of the people first.”

“If that involves all parties and groupings in the Dáil compromising in order to agree a common government platform, the maybe that is something we ought to consider,” he added.

With reporting from Conor McCrave,  Christina Finn and Aoife Barry

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