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Some Fine Gael TDs want a deal with Fianna Fáil – but lots of them just don’t want to talk about it

A survey carried out by TheJournal.ie this week found many Fine Gael TDs reluctant to discuss the formation of the next government.
Mar 19th 2016, 3:30 PM 16,881 53

AT LEAST A dozen Fine Gael TDs want their party to enter into an arrangement with Fianna Fáil – with many stretching as far as calling for a coalition government with the old rival.

But of the other 38, many are keeping their opinions to themselves.

In a survey of the party’s 50 TDs, TheJournal.ie found many reluctant to talk publicly about their preferred option following the inconclusive outcome of the general election.

Fine Gael is currently attempting to secure the support of small parties and independents in a bid to form a minority government without Fianna Fáil.

However it’s widely expected that the party will eventually engage in talks with its historic rival, despite reluctance from many within Fianna Fáil.

03/02/2016. Fine Gael. Pictured An Taoiseach Enda Fine Gael's parliamentary party at Leinster House Source: Sam Boal

In the phone questionnaire, TheJournal.ie asked every Fine Gael TD whether they would prefer:

  • A Fine Gael minority government without Fianna Fáil
  • A Fine Gael minority government with Fianna Fáil
  • A ‘grand coalition’ government with Fianna Fáil
  • Fine Gael in opposition 

Exactly half of the 50 deputies who were elected to the 32nd Dáil responded – with some of those who didn’t expressing reluctance over talking publicly about their views.

Several politicians queried whether the survey was anonymous (it was not) and asked how many other TDs had responded.

Though there is a diversity of views, 13 of the 25 who did answer our question favour either a grand coalition with Fianna Fáil or a Fine Gael minority with Fianna Fáil support.

What they said

Michael D’Arcy, who won a seat in Wexford last month, spoke strongly in favour of coalition with Fianna Fáil, saying it’s that “or nothing”.

I’ve made the point that if Fianna Fáil could go into government with the PDs in the ’80s and Fine Gael could go in with Democratic Left [in the '90s], then 20 years later, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil can go into government to protect the country.
“There are some very serious issues coming down the track that you’re going to need a solid government for,” he said.

Pat Breen, a TD for Clare, said the grand coalition is the most stable option, saying: “If you want stability, a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil government is the best one for five years of stability.”

25/3/2013 Irelands Presidency Of The European Union David Stanton Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Cork East TD David Stanton said a “grand coalition would probably be the most stable and long lasting”.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD Pat Deering said he would favour a coalition with Fianna Fáil but “not at any cost”. He said he would not agree to such an arrangement if there is a rotating Taoiseach and the principle of paying for water is not maintained.

Others who support a coalition with Fianna Fáil include Kildare South TD Martin Heydon, Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke and Clare TD Joe Carey.

Ciaran Cannon, a deputy for Galway East, said that the grand coalition is his preferred option but believes it is unlikely to be achieved. He said he would therefore favour a Fine Gael minority with Fianna Fáil support.

Those who support the idea of a minority government with Fianna Fáil support include John Paul Phelan (Carlow-Kilkenny) Colm Brophy (Dublin South-West) Fergus O’Dowd (Louth), Helen McEntee (Meath East), and Noel Rock (Dublin North-West).

23/1/2016.78th Fine Gael Ard Fheis Simon Coveney Source: sam boal

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney (Cork South-Central), who has been heavily involved in Fine Gael’s negotiations with other parties and independents, said he would prefer a government “without being reliant on Fianna Fáil support”.

His view was shared by junior minister Damien English (Meath West), who told us:

My preference would be minority without Fianna Fáil, which I think is possible. I’d go with Fianna Fáil if needs be, but it is possible to do a strong rainbow minority government.

Galway West TD Sean Kyne and Offaly TD Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy also expressed support for a Fine Gael minority without Fianna Fáil support.

Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle said he would prefer to go into opposition unless “we can nail down an agreement that can last three years”.

There are far too many elected who want to criticise the government, but only want to oppose after calling for change during the campaign. Now they are calling for more of the same, simply to avoid having to make hard choices.

Other views

Other TDs who responded did not opt for either of the four options and instead expressed a range of opinions.

Dublin Fingal deputy Alan Farrell said he favoured none of the options and suggested a second election could be possible.

Dublin Rathdown TD Josepha Madigan said it was “too early to say”, while Dún Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey said she would await the outcome of talks between Fine Gael and other parties.

3/3/2016. Election 2016 - Dail Arrivals. Members o Maria Bailey Source: Leah Farrell

Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell said she favoured the formation of a stable government, without expressing a preference for what parties that should involve.

Limerick TD Tom Neville said “all sensible options for a stable government” should be explored.

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin said he would prefer a “proportional administration that would operate firmly on the principles of consensus and compromise”.

Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan said he would not comment on the question as the matter should not be discussed in the media, telling this website:

It’s not for public discussion in the first instance, the party has to decide. We can’t do the process through the media. It’s not in the interests of country or government to spend this time speculating on what I would like or prefer.

The 25 TDs who failed to respond to our question are:

  1. Catherine Byrne, Dublin South Central
  2. Charlie Flanagan, Laois
  3. Dara Murphy, Cork North Central
  4. Enda Kenny, Mayo
  5. Eoghan Murphy, Dublin Bay South
  6. Frances Fitzgerald, Dublin Mid West
  7. Heather Humphreys, Cavan Monaghan
  8. Hildegarde Naughton, Galway West
  9. Jim Daly, Cork South West
  10. Joe McHugh, Donegal
  11. John Deasy, Waterford
  12. Leo Varadkar, Dublin West 
  13. Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, Dun Laoighaire-Rathdown
  14. Michael Creed, Cork North West
  15. Michael Noonan, Limerick City
  16. Michael Ring, Mayo
  17. Paschal Donohoe, Dublin Central
  18. Patrick O’Donovan, Limerick County
  19. Paul Kehoe, Wexford
  20. Peter Fitzpatrick, Louth
  21. Regina Doherty, Meath East
  22. Richard Bruton, Dublin Bay North 
  23. Seán Barrett, Dun Laoghaire
  24. Simon Harris, Wicklow
  25. Tony McLoughlin, Sligo-Leitrim

Read: How close are we to getting a government?

Read: Enda Kenny has had a ‘very good and very constructive’ talk with the Green Party

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Hugh O'Connell

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