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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 25 February, 2020

'It's not a normal party': Leo Varadkar rules out post-election coalition with Sinn Féin

The taoiseach said that it was a ‘principled’ position.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his party wouldn't enter coalition with Sinn Féin.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his party wouldn't enter coalition with Sinn Féin.
Image: Liam McBurney/PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that Fine Gael will not go into coalition with Sinn Fein even as the most recent opinion poll put the two parties neck and neck. 

Speaking to reporters in Fermoy, Co Cork this afternoon, he said: “We’re not ruling out Sinn Fein as a coalition partner because of where they stand in the polls – that is not what it is about at all.”

“It is a principled position that we are taking and that is the view that Sinn Fein is not a normal party.”

“Their decision-making process involves consulting an Ard Comhairle and we have seen that in Northern Ireland where key decisions are not necessarily made by the people,” he said. 

“At a time when the public have serious concerns about crime, Sinn Fein is the party that has consistently opposed the Special Criminal Court – a court that we use to lock up some really bad guys – dissident republicans and people involved in organised crime. We could not possibly compromise on something like that.”

Asked if he would consider Sinn Fein as a coalition partner if they changed their position on the Special Criminal Court, he said: “No, they said they would review it but review is not a u-turn. I would be asking for a u-turn from Sinn Fein on that one.”

Poor polls

Varadkar conceded that Fine Gael is coming behind in the general election campaign, with recent polls showing a drop in support for the party.

Last night, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll recorded a significant surge in support for Sinn Féin, putting the party on 21% compared to Fianna Fáil at 25% and Fine Gael at 23%. 

It was the first poll to be conducted since the election was called. 

“I think that what the poll show is a lot of volatility. We saw one poll that showed a big swing to Fianna Fail and another that shows a big Sinn Fein [swing]. We will have another poll in a few days and we don’t know what that is going to say,” he said. 

The situation as far as I can see is that this election is close and Fine Gael is coming from behind but it is close and it is all to play for. I look forward to spending the next three weeks getting around the country and showing we have the right team to take this country forward.

 Varadkar re-iterated his party will consider a coalition with any party but Sinn Fein if they are not returned to government with a majority.

He said that he wasn’t concerned about a poll that showed a drop in his personal popularity as leader.

“What the poll shows is that all of the three main party leaders are neck and neck and I’m slightly ahead of the other two so I may be down from where I was when we helped secure the Brexit breakthrough and we got a responsible budget through back in October,” Varadkar said. 

“The three party leaders are neck and neck but I’m slightly ahead – all of these polls have a margin or error,” he said. 

With reporting from Dominic McGrath

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