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Simon Harris: Abstaining on vote for Mary Lou as Taoiseach is 'the exact same as voting for her'

The outgoing Health Minister said that based on the election commentary, “You’d swear [Mary Lou McDonald] had 80 seats”.

TDS, POLITICAL COMMENTATORS and party figures have been commenting on how likely it is that Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil would go into government together.

Fianna Fáil have secured the most TDs in the Dáil: but have 6 less TDs than in the last Dáil, and just one more TD than Sinn Féin. The two parties have 75 TDs between them – if you add a coalition with the Greens, Soc Dems or Independents, and that brings them over the 80-seat majority needed to form a government.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have previously ruled out going into government with Sinn Féin, saying that they’re not a normal party; and Sinn Féin has said that it would prefer a government without FF or FG, and will explore that option first.

After being elected, Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan said that “it wasn’t tenable” to go into government with Sinn Féin. 

“We need to recognise we gave a commitment, and when you look at the policy differences between Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, I don’t think it’s tenable to suggest that we should be in coalition with them,” he said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Mary O’Rourke, formerly deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, said that if Mary Lou McDonald is put forward for the role of Taoiseach, that Fianna Fáil should abstain on that vote.

She also said that Micheál Martin is still the best candidate for the FF leadership.

Fianna Fáil’s only MEP Billy Kelleher said that “we have to accept that Sinn Féin has 37 seats, it has the popular vote” and that there’s an obligation on McDonald to try to form a government.

On whether Fianna Fáil should abstain on a vote for Mary Lou McDonald as Taoiseach:

If Mary Lou McDonald comes to the parliament with a sizeable number of people beyond her own party then obviously there’s a responsibility on everyone to ensure we have a government.

When asked what would happen next, and who would be the next Taoiseach, Kelleher said “I honestly don’t know at this stage”, but said if she had “60+” TDs, she has a very good chance of being Taoiseach. 

Outgoing Health Minister and Wicklow TD Simon Harris told the same programme that Fine Gael’s policy on a government with Sinn Féin has been “consistent” before, during and after the election.

We will talk with any and all parties about forming a government, with the exception of Sinn Féin. Because while Sinn Féin have a mandate, and I respect that mandate, I have a mandate too and so do my Fine Gael colleagues. And that mandate clearly was not going into government with Sinn Féin.

Simon Harris said that he would “never abstain on a vote for a Sinn Féin candidate as Taoiseach”, and that abstaining for a Sinn Féin leader to be Taoiseach is “the exact same as voting for them” because it would have the same result.

He said that the process should be that Sinn Féin to try to form a government, but added that centre parties still won “a hell of a lot of votes”.

He added: “You would swear from some media commentary that everyone voted Sinn Féin”.

We’re talking about this as though there’s a massive lead for one party. In terms of the numbers in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil has the most seats – by one, followed by Sinn Féin, followed by Fine Gael, two behind. We have three large blocks here. Nobody has a divine right to be Taoiseach. 
I heard Mary Lou talking on the RTÉ News last night. You’d swear she had 80 seats [a majority in the Dáil]. 

Matt Carthy, Sinn Féin’s only MEP who is now a Cavan-Monaghan TD, told Morning Ireland that all parties should be open to talking to Sinn Féin – but said his party’s preference is a coalition without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said talks between Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil “may well take place” but this does not mean coalition, adding, “talks mean consideration.”

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