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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
RollingNews.ie Mary Lou McDonald.
Mary Lou McDonald says coalition deal with Fine Gael 'a long shot', but doesn't rule it out
Speaking on The Late Late Show, the Sinn Féin leader said she believed that all parties should talk to each other.

MARY LOU MCDONALD has refused to rule out forming a coalition government with Fine Gael after the next general election.

Appearing on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, the Sinn Féin leader said that a deal between the two parties would be “a long shot”, but that she believes that all parties should talk to each other. 

Last month, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael Ard Fheis that he had been asked if he would ever consider going into coalition with Sinn Féin. 

“I gave them a clear and unambiguous answer from all of us – No, no way, not a chance,” he said.

He labelled the next General Election as the “most important in a generation” and that Sinn Féin needed to be stopped.

Asked about his comments this evening, McDonald said she felt it was “more of the same” from the Fine Gael leader.

“After the last election, there was a whole concerted effort to say, not to us, but to the people who voted for us that somehow their votes were somehow lesser or that their representatives shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t have an opportunity at government and I think that flies in the face of fairness,” she said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I disagree fundamentally with Leo Varadkar on many things. I believe we should protect Irish neutrality. I don’t believe that we should have gotten away with a half a million euro cap for big bankers, I think that’s insane. 

“Unlike him, I will respect whatever votes are cast by the Irish people, and I actually believe people should talk to each other.

She said it would be a longshot for the two parties to form a government. “You don’t shut down the possibility of respectfully acknowledging somebody’s democratic mandate and talking to them,” she added. 

However, she said the “best outcome” would be a government without Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. 

McDonald also said a Sinn Féin majority would be “the dream”, but added that it would be “a very long shot”. 

Border poll

McDonald also reiterated her call for the country to start preparing to hold a border poll, stating that any polling data being seen now is being taken before the government has “signalled a seriousness about it”. 

“For a lot of people, they would say: ‘Is this the thing? Is this actually going to happen? Could we actually see a united Ireland? Is this just a dream? But we can.”

She said that anyone she speaks to about Irish reunification always raises the issue of healthcare first. 

“I believe we need an Irish National Health System, and I believe that that is possible. I think we can only achieve that an all Ireland basis,” she said.

Asked about the prospect of a different national anthem or flag, she said: “I’m not going to selectively say we can’t talk about anything, I think we need to talk about it.”

McDonald was also asked about recent trials going on before the courts. She said she could not discuss details of any cases, but said that she represented communities that have been “devastated” by an ongoing drugs epidemic and “traumatised” by gangland violence, a term she said she dislikes for giving violence a “facade of almost bravado or even glamour”.

She also said that she would be “foolhardy” to not feel slightly daunted by the prospect of becoming Taoiseach. 

“I’m very conscious that the person who leads Government and leads the country takes on a huge responsibility. You take on the responsibility to lead for everyone, and we’re living through time where we have a housing crisis, we have a crisis of health care provision,” she said.

“I’m very concerned that so many of our young people that are again, finding themselves almost forced to leave the country. We need to stop that. We need to keep the talent, the energy and the brilliance of our young people at home.”