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Party leaders planning new week of talks but still no sign of government being formed

Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee said people need to respect that the party will not go into government with Sinn Féin.

Image: PA

IRELAND’S TOP THREE political parties are continuing to seek a form of coalition government this week, two weeks after the general election was held. 

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael finished in an almost dead heat following the recent election, all far short of being able to form a government alone.

Talks between the parties have been ongoing over the last two weeks to agree a coalition deal.

Fianna Fáil emerged with 38 TDs, a total which has reduced to 37 following the re-election of Seán Ó Fearghaíl as Ceann Comhairle.

Sinn Féin also has 37 TDs while Fine Gael has 35 – significantly short of the 80 required to form a government.

Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have ruled out forming a government with Sinn Féin.

Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee said there should be no link between an army council and a political party.

She made the comment on RTE’s The Week in Politics a few days after Garda Commissioner Drew Harris referred to the provisional IRA army council’s continuing influence on Sinn Féin.

McEntee said people have to respect the fact that Fine Gael will not work with Sinn Féin.

Fianna Fáil’s Mary Butler also told the programme she has concerns about the governance of Sinn Féin.

She referred to three remaining options, including a left-leaning minority government, a coalition or another general election.

She said there must be compromise between parties when talks begin on Tuesday, but she said a coalition with Sinn Féin is a red line for Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar are set to meet for talks next week while Sinn Féin has announced plans to hold a series of regional rallies over the next fortnight.

Sinn Féin TD Padraig MacLochlainn criticised the prospect of the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are clearly looking to move to form a new government together,” he told This Week In Politics.

“That is absolutely laughable if they mean that is change. The people clearly said that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had failed to deliver on the key issues of health, housing and also the issue of money in ordinary workers’ pockets.

“These two parties coming together, determined to coalesce, is an insult to the vote that just took place and I think particularly for Fianna Fáil, who claim to be a social democratic party, it is laughable the direction they are going.”

MacLochlainn also told the programme that the IRA had gone and was not coming back.

“In August 1994 we had the IRA ceasefire, that is over 25 years ago, I was 21 years of age at that time. My father was an IRA prisoner, my uncle was an IRA prisoner and our family and many others said ‘move away from armed struggle and embrace the political process’,” he said.

“Now 25 years on we are still dealing with this absolute nonsense that is thrown up again and again.

“What I want to say here very clearly is over 700,000 people voted for my party in the recent past. In the Westminster and the Dáil elections.

“Our mandate has a right to be respected, the vote for positive change in terms of health, housing, the fact that families are struggling to get by every week, they are the real issues. The IRA has gone, they are not coming back and that is the reality.”

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