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'It was not an appropriate comment to make': Minister slapped down for comments about coalition with Sinn Féin

Junior Minister Jim Daly said he has “no ideological objection” to Sinn Fein being in government with Fine Gael.

Updated 9.20pm

0334 Jim Daly Mininster_90515652 Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly. Source: Leah Farrell

JUNIOR MINISTER JIM Daly has been slapped down for comments he made in which he said he has “no ideological objection” to Sinn Fein being in government with Fine Gael.

In an interview with Hot Press magazine, Minister Daly said:

I have no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government. I just think, on a policy platform, it would be very difficult to agree a programme for government between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. But, look, politics is the art of doing – and who knows?

He added:

I don’t have an ideological objection. We live in a democracy. The will of the people has to be respected – and Sinn Féin’s mandate is as legitimate as any other party, as far as I’m concerned.

His remarks have been dismissed by the government press secretary, with many of his party colleagues also expressing concern about his comments.

‘Not appropriate’

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said “it was not an appropriate thing to say”.

“He [Jim Daly] certainly was not speaking on behalf of the government or anybody else when he made those comments,” he added.

The spokesperson said “Mr Daly is a very capable minister” but added that he is “not in a position to comment on future coalitions with Fine Gael”.

However, he added:

The Taoiseach has full confidence in his abilities as a Minister.

When pressed further on the issue, the government press secretary said Sinn Féin’s policies are too “radical” and “different” to Fine Gael’s, reiterating that Fine Gael would not form a government with Sinn Féin in the future.

“I can’t see any circumstances where they would be compatible,” he said, stating that a confidence and supply arrangement between the two parties is also not under consideration.

When suggested that Daly had the right to have an opinion on the issue, the spokesperson agreed, stating: “Thought control is not a policy of Fine Gael.”

Anger among party members

The West Cork TD’s comments has resulted in anger and consternation amongst many of his party colleagues today, with many urging him to clarify his comments immediately.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock told TheJournal.ie:

Based on the comments I have seen, and I have spoken to him since, I think he is going to have to clarify what he said. He has left people with the impression that Fine Gael are not against going into coalition with Sinn Féin – that isn’t the case.

Sinn Féin and Fine Gael’s economic policies are too different, explained Rock. He added that no common ground could be found between the two parties – not next year or even in 100 years.

We have a distinct interest in pursuing an all-Ireland and all-Ireland policies ourselves but when it comes to the economic divide between the two parties that is where the real crux of it is, that is the real problem and I don’t see us being able to bridge that at any time, not just in the near future but in the next 100 years.

Rock believes Daly was trying to make the point that “ideologically they [the two parties] are not entirely different… but that is different to going into coalition – our economic policies are different”.

He said Sinn Féin tries to “make people believe they can get something for nothing, and you can’t. We believe in fairness, we believe in distribution, sure, but we don’t believe in giving things away for free”.

0173 North East Inner City Initiative_90537935 Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar. Source: RollingNews.ie

“I suspect the Taoiseach will not be proposing any coalition with Sinn Fein in the near future,” he added.

“I don’t know what the hell he was thinking, it is mad stuff to be saying altogether,” said one Fine Gael senator, who said a lot of people in the party are unhappy with the issue being opened up again.

Sinn Féin coalition

Last year, the former Taoiseach Enda Kenny was forced to release a statement to clarify he would not go into government with Sinn Fein.

Previously, Kenny muddied the waters by refusing to rule out the possibility of Fine Gael entering into government with Sinn Fein.

“I said I wouldn’t do business with Fianna Fáil so, depending on the result you gave as a member of electorate, politicians have to work with the result,” the Taoiseach said at the time.

Later he was forced to clarify his comments and stated:

I don’t see Fine Gael doing business with Sinn Fein that’s not going to arise under this administration in any event.

Sinn Féin has indicated it is willing to enter into government as a junior coalition partner in the future.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party was mindful of who to enter into government with as a possible junior partner if the situation arose.

What we don’t want is to be in government just for the thrill of it, for the personal advancement of it… We are conscience of the fact that in previous coalition arrangements, different parties have really failed to carry their politics and deliver.
Of course it is a concern. You would have to be incredibly foolish not to have that concern… But that is not to say we don’t want to be in government, of course we do.
It would be as and when it emerges a big, big challenge for us – but it is a challenge we have to take on.

A spokesperson for Sinn Féin said this evening that their party’s position on coalition hasn’t changed.

“We will seek a mandate to lead the next government. In the event of us not achieving that, we are willing to talk to other parties about forming a coalition, but it will only be based on a republican programme for government that puts money on the table to properly tackle the health and homeless crises.”

Comments by Daly

Daly’s comments on going into government with Sinn Féin is not the first time the minister has come in for criticism from his party and the Taoiseach.

Earlier this year, Leo Varadkar was forced to clarify that he has no plans to try and link social media accounts to the Public Services Card.

It came after Daly floated the idea of forcing social media companies to demand PPS numbers from users to verify their age.

Daly’s advice to the elderly in February to keep their heating on 24/7 during the cold weather was also dismissed by the Taoiseach when he told the Dáil the minister of State’s comments were “not the advice of government”.

In addition to his comments on a possible Sinn Féin – Fine Gael coalition, Hotpress Magazine also asked Daly about the upcoming referendum and drink-driving.

Daly has already said on the record that he backs repealing the Eighth Amendment and the 12 weeks provision in legislation.

“I bring an awful amount of conviction to that particular debate. I suppose my own family experience in fostering children and all of  that has helped me to realise that not every pregnancy is ideal or welcome or can be accommodated. I’m as pro-life as the next person and want to ensure that life is protected in as many forms as possible. But, again, it’s about acknowledging the reality,” he told Hotpress.

On getting behind the wheel of a car while over the limit, Daly confessed: “I wouldn’t be proud of my past in that respect. I’m sure, back in the day, in rural Ireland we took chances that were reckless.”

TheJournal.ie asked Jim Daly to comment on his recent remarks, however, no statement was issued by the time of publication.

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