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Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin rule out going into government with Sinn Féin

Earlier, Health Minister Varadkar said he doesn’t think anyone believes Gerry Adams when he denies past membership of the IRA.

Leo Varadkar in Glenties tonight
Leo Varadkar in Glenties tonight
Image: Screengrab/Donegal County Council

Updated 10.30pm 

LEO VARADKAR AND Micheál Martin both appeared to rule out a future coalition government with Sinn Féin at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties tonight.

During a wide-ranging question and answer session, Health Minister Varadkar said he could not envisage a coalition between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.

Micheál Martin repeated comments he has made before, ruling out a coalition with the other main opposition party, saying: ”I’ve said we’re not going into power with Sinn Féin.”

The two TDs were sat either side of Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald with debate moderator Seán O’Rourke earlier joking he was being joined by the next three taoisigh.

McDonald suggested that the two men either side of her and their parties should “kiss and make up”. She claimed the “schism of Civil War politics” has ended.

‘I don’t believe it’

Earlier, Varadkar launched a strong attack on Sinn Féin prior to his speech saying that the party “refuses to trust the people with the truth about its past”.

Prior to his speech Varadkar told journalists he doesn’t think anyone believes Adams when he repeatedly denies he was in the IRA, saying: “I don’t think anyone believes it. I don’t believe it and I don’t think anyone else does quite frankly.

“But what we’ve all decided to do is just to turn a blind eye to it for the sake of peace on the island and maybe that’s not the wrong thing to do. I understand why we’ve all decided to turn a blind eye to Sinn Féin’s past.”

Varadkar said that Sinn Féin “fundamentally doesn’t trust the Irish people” citing the party’s refusal to tell the truth about its past and be consistent on its policies North and South.

“I don’t really think that the public can trust Sinn Féin to be in government until Sinn Féin starts trusting the public and starts telling them the truth,” he said.

‘Narrow perspective’

McDonald said that Adams has dealt with the question of his alleged IRA membership “time and time again”.

“The only person who can answer that question is Gerry, I can’t answer on his behalf,” she said.

McDonald said that a “very narrow perspective” has been taken on Adams and claimed that the “political and democratic milestones that he pioneered” very often “gets lost in the white heat of the IRA question”.

Varadkar was also critical of Fianna Fáil saying that its “great failure was that it claimed too much trust, and then betrayed it”.

He said that few questioned the source of former taoiseach Charlie Haughey’s wealth in the 1980s when he was in power and said earlier that the Irish people “have to think long and hard about handing the keys back to the party that crashed the car”.

Public trust

In the session on ‘How To Restore Trust Between Governors And Governed’, Varadkar opined that rather than people not trusting politicians, politicians don’t trust people.

He cited the recent attempt to have a directly-elected mayor for Dublin which was halted by local councillors who were “afraid of losing some of their power”.

Speaking to journalists earlier in the evening, he said: “If you do trust the public I think they will be more likely to trust you and that means telling them the truth about the problems the country faces and what needs to be done. That’s the approach I always try to practice.”

‘Tweedledum Tweddledee’

In her speech, McDonald said the current political system has a “perverse” instinct “to protect the state, whatever the consequences for citizens”.

McDonald said the  lack of women in politics is “a significant factor in the alienation of citizens from the political process” and that the governing class remains “overwhelmingly male, white, settled, middle class and middle aged”.

She concluded that it is time for the electorate to be offered a “real political alternative to the ‘Tweedledum Tweddledee’ politics that has as an article of faith that no administration is possible without Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil”.

In his speech, Martin heavily criticised the government’s unsuccessful campaign to abolish the Seanad and said it was a case study of the flaws in the current political system.

He said that the government is not unpopular because it made bad decisions, but rather “because people believe it has made bad and unfair decisions – and because before the election it made promises which it knew it would not keep”.

Martin also criticised Sinn Féin’s labelling of those involved in the Boston College, saying: “Sinn Féin labelling them as touts and informers – that’s not good enough anymore.”

First published 9.54pm 

  • Follow @oconnellhugh for updates from the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Donegal

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Hugh O'Connell

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