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Mary Lou McDonald: 'Quite disgraceful' that Sinn Féin excluded by FF and FG

McDonald is to call Micheál Martin this afternoon, but, as she said: “not to shoot the breeze or to exchange Valentine’s Day greetings”.

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said that it’s “quite disgraceful” that the “old boys club” would set aside the democratic mandate her party received in the general election.

McDonald said that the refusals from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to govern with Sinn Féin was “a problem of the old guard believing they are entitled to hold power”, and that if there was another election the people wouldn’t change their mind and “decide they don’t want change”.

Sinn Féin won 24% of the popular vote in the general election; around 10 percentage points ahead of its last general election result, and propelling it ahead of what had been Ireland’s two biggest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Both parties said ahead of polling day on Saturday 8 February that they would not go into government with Sinn Féin, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar referring to them as “not a normal party”. 

Although the party won the largest share of first-preference votes, they didn’t win the most Dáil seats because they only ran 42 candidates (80 TDs is a majority). Fianna Fáil has the largest share of Dáil seats on 38, and Fine Gael won 35.

Sinn Féin has 37 TDs – 15 more than they had when the Dáil was dissolved – leading to the two big parties being repeatedly questioned on whether they would reconsider working with Sinn Féin.

Fine Gael ministers – Varadkar included -  have repeatedly said that they would consider going into government with all parties but Sinn Féin. 

Last night, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that his party would not consider going into government with Sinn Féin. 

Speaking to reporters at a press event in Cabra, McDonald said that the idea that a Fianna Fáil or a Fine Gael government represented change was “farcical”.

Tweet by @Louise O’Reilly TD for Dublin Fingal Source: Louise O’Reilly TD for Dublin Fingal/Twitter

The differences in the parties manifestos has been cited by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as a reason to exclude going into government with Sinn Féin; addressing this, McDonald said: “The truth is that we have huge policy differences with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Everybody knows that.

“But people also know that we have a mandate to be in government, we have a mandate to build houses, to cut rents and freeze them, to get the pension age back to 65, to get to grips with the health service and to deliver a government of change.

Any suggestion that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together represent change is farcical. Transparently farcical. 

“I think it is actually quite disgraceful that the old boys’ club of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael believe that they can set aside the democratic mandate of Sinn Féin.

I have no sense of entitlement to anything, but I can tell you this much: the people who vote for us, the people who we represent, hundreds of thousands of us are entitled to respect.

McDonald said that she got a voice message from Micheál Martin and that she responded, but she wants him to take a call from her, and “sit down with us”.

She said that she would call Micheál Martin later this afternoon “not to shoot the breeze or to exchange Valentine’s Day greetings” but to talk about how to deliver “a government of change”. “Nobody gets off the hook for the responsibility to form a government, McDonald added.

“A government has to be formed – just because FF and FG doesn’t like the result doesn’t mean they can deny people a government of change,” she said, but admitted “the mathematics is tricky”.

She said that a Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael government would be a “smack in the face for the Irish electorate”. She said she would have no problem fighting another election.

When asked about the Green Party, the Social Democrats and other parties who may be asked to form a government with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, Mary Lou simply said:

“Don’t do it.”

- with reporting from Sean Murray in Cabra

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