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Sam Boal
government formation

Micheál Martin announces FF negotiating team, but says coalition with SF 'not the right thing to do'

Martin says he has written to Mary Lou McDonald explaining why Fianna Fáil won’t go into coalition with Sinn Féin.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Feb 2020

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has announced his party’s government formation negotiating team this evening. 

The team comprises of the party’s deputy leader Dara Calleary, Anne Rabbitte, Michael McGrath, Barry Cowen, Darragh O’Brien and Thomas Byrne.

In a statement this evening, Martin said the group will “co-ordinate meetings with other parties and independents and work to develop agreed policy action to deal with the range of crises facing the country”.  

“This will not be an easy process, but it is a hugely important one. We will approach the process in a positive, calm and constructive way, as we work to deliver a change of government and a new approach in the areas of housing, health, cost of living and climate change,” said Martin. 

Notably, Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan, who was a prominent figure on the Fianna Fáil team during the last government formation talks in 2016, did not make it on shortlist this time around. 

O’Callaghan, who has been touted as possible future leader of the party, has also been highly critical of any talk of Fianna Fáil going into coalition with Sinn Féin, with some speculating that he would leave the party if that was to become a reality. 

Earlier, in a series of tweets, Martin also reiterated that the party position remains not to go into coalition with Sinn Féin.

The parliamentary party is meeting for the second time since the election at 6pm today. 

Last week, Martin rejected speaking with Sinn Féin about forming a government after a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party. 

Martin stated on Twitter that for “many reasons” coalition with Sinn Féin would not be the right thing to do”.

“I have since written to the SF Leader, Deputy Mary Lou McDonald to explain that decision,” he said. 

He added:

“Over the course of the last week I have had informal discussions with the Green Party, the Social Democrats and various independents. I have also met with Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach regarding Civil Service support for Programme for Government negotiations.”

“Later this afternoon I will announce membership of a special negotiations steering group. Comprising members of the Fianna Fáil Front Bench, this group will commence formal engagement with the other parties and co-ordinate the input of the FF Frontbench & Parliamentary Party.”

In an indication that he wants the job as Taoiseach ahead of tomorrow’s vote in the Dáil, Martin concluded by stating that his party is working hard to deliver the change that people voted for. 

Earlier today, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said his party is intensifying its discussions with parties and Independents today around forming a government for change.

Over the next day, Doherty and the party’s negotiating team will meet with the Green Party, the Social Democrats, Solidarity-People Before Profit, the Labour Party, Independents4Change, the Rural Independents Group, as well as other Independents.

Doherty hit out against Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael today for refusing to engage with Sinn Féin, stating that he was fed up with the “shadow-boxing” by the two parties. 

“The people want politicians that have been elected to get on with dealing with serious issues.

“It is not good enough to sit on the sidelines and refuse to engage,” he told reporters. 

He said the party is already in the process of putting together the arrangements for a special Ard Fheis should it be needed to ratify any possible programme for government. 

The first Dáil sitting of the 33rd Dáil will take place tomorrow, with all newly elected TDs in attendance. 

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