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'We are not ruling it out': Fine Gael is open to going into government with Fianna Fáil

The party’s 35 TDs will meet today following one of its worst general election performances ever.

Varadkar voting in the election on Saturday 8 February.
Varadkar voting in the election on Saturday 8 February.
Image: Damien Storan/PA Images

Updated Feb 17th 2020, 8:30 AM

THE FINE GAEL parliamentary party is set to meet today to discuss how it should proceed after it came third behind Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in terms of seats in last week’s general election.

Members of the party including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have consistently ruled out working to form a government with Sinn Féin.

However, a grand coalition seeing the party work with Fianna Fáil has been mooted as a potential option that could see the party return to government. 

The meeting today will see it’s TDs take stock following a bruising election. Fine Gael’s 35 seats is the party’s fourth-worst performance ever, behind only 1943 (when it won 32 seats), 2002 and 1948 (31 seats) and 1944 (30 seats).

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Fine Gael parliamentary party chairperson Martin Heydon said that the party would be willing to go into government “as a last resort” and that members of the party are “uneasy” about the idea of working with Fianna Fáil.

He said the responsibility lay with Sinn Féin to try to form a government in the first instance, and that Fine Gael is preparing for opposition.

“We are happy to discuss with other parties if necessary,” Heydon said. “The primary responsibility is not on us.”

When pushed on several occasions if Fine Gael was open to go into government with Fianna Fáil, he said: “We’re not ruling it out.”

Heydon added his party will play its part and that the public wouldn’t thank politicians if there was another general election in the near future.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics yesterday, former Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern said he “wouldn’t put too much money” on the two parties going into government together

Ahern said if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael form a coalition, it would need to involve the Greens and Social Democrats and “some sort of an agreement” with independents. 

“If you don’t do that it won’t reflect change and it would also create a problem for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, particularly Fianna Fáil, because when you’re putting a government together, you have to look to the future as well,” he said. 

Ahern went on to say that the public will be looking for a “programme for government that gets four years, that reflects the politics of the issues that were around in this election”. 

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“And the reality is the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael manifestos didn’t reflect that.” 

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Sean Murray

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