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'I'm a democrat, I listen to the people': Micheál Martin refuses to rule out Sinn Féin coalition

Martin said that ‘today is not the day’ to speak about government formation.

Martin at the count centre in Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Cork.
Martin at the count centre in Nemo Rangers GAA Club in Cork.
Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has said there are “significant issues to be resolved” but refused to rule out a coalition with Sinn Féin following the general election.

Speaking to RTÉ for the first time today minutes after Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire topped the poll ahead of him in Cork South Central, Martin said that “principles don’t change overnight” but that issues can be teased out.

Asked about the formation of a government in the RDS today, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that her “first port of call is the other parties” aside from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin is on course to significantly increase it’s seat count in the Dáil and tallies have indicated the party has won the largest number of first preference votes. 

Asked whether he is expecting to speak to McDonald, Martin said he thinks all sides should “let things calm down today”.

“We’ll assess it when the full count is in and the full number of seats are in. I’m a democrat. I listen to the people, I respect the decision of the people,” he said. 

That said, for any government to sustain, there has to be compatibility in terms of the programme for government. It has to be coherent, and it has to be sustainable and deliverable. And there are very significant issues that can’t be glossed over in the euphoria of a of an election day and the all of the tension and the interest and excitement around it.

“And so I think, over the next number of days people will assess that situation in terms of such a policy platform,” he added. 

“The country must come first, we put it first in 2016, and we facilitated a confidence and supply agreement. We facilitated the formation of a functioning government the last time. We’re now entering into a different fragmented political landscape, which I think is going to make the formation of a government very difficult,” Martin said.

During the election campaign Martin repeatedly said he would not consider working in a coalition with Sinn Féin. Asked is that still his position, Martin said that “today is not the day”.

“I’ve heard the people speak today, the people have voted in numbers and I respect that. So, what I said to you fundamentally there is that for any government to sustain, there has to be compatibility in the political program of that government and also you know one’s policies and one’s position and principle doesn’t change overnight, and there are significant issues there, but as I say over the next number of days will tease those out, with all concerned.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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