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Doherty says Sinn Féin would be 'laughed at' if party produced same document as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil

Micheál Martin has defended the policy framework document.

Pearse Doherty (file photo).
Pearse Doherty (file photo).
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

PEARSE DOHERTY HAS criticised the policy framework document compiled by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, saying Sinn Féin would be “laughed out of it” if the party produced a similar document.

The document was signed off by respective party leaders Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin yesterday.

Smaller parties such as the Greens, the Social Democrats and Labour, as well as independent TDs, will review the document before indicating whether or not they’re interested in entering a coalition.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Doherty said the 24-page document is “basically a wish list of vague promises” with “no detail”and “no specifics” but “plenty of spin”.

“The reality is that this is a document that is designed to at doing what the two parties want to do and that is keep Sinn Féin out of government,” Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson said.

Doherty said the document indicates “a huge lack of ambition” in areas such as health, childcare and housing. 

He added that if Sinn Féin produced a similar document with any other political party “we would be laughed out of it – not only by the other political parties but by the media and by the establishment, and rightly so”. 

Doherty said Sinn Féin wants to be in government, but accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of being “hell-bent on retaining power at all costs”.

In February’s general election, Fianna Fáil secured 38 seats, Sinn Féin got 37 seats and Fine Gael secure 35 – all well short of the 80 needed for a majority.

Doherty added that Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was “very sick” from Covid-19 but is doing “a lot better” and hopes to return to work on Monday. However, he said she is now receiving treatment for a secondary issue, pleurisy on her right lung.

Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, has also criticised the policy framework document. Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke, Shortall said she is “quite disappointed” in the document and is “not given much grounds for hope”.

Shortall described the document as “very long on aspiration and short of specifics” and “exceptionally vague”. She said her party would give a “detailed response” to the document over next couple of days.

‘A broad understanding’

However, Martin defended the document, saying it can be updated and amended with suggestions from other parties as negotiations continue.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke, the Fianna Fáil leader said there is an “obligation” on politicians to form a government, particularly given the “extraordinary times” we are living in.

Martin said he and Varadkar have “a broad understanding on a whole range of issues” but would not confirm reports he would serve as Taoiseach first in a grand coalition where the position was rotated.

When asked about past disagreements between the two men, Martin said: ”I’ve never been personal in my politics and I don’t intent to start now.” He added that he is satisfied Varadkar respects him and said “it’s not about personalities”.

Martin said a stable majority government is needed and noted there were “good discussions” with the Green Party and some independents earlier in government-formation talks.

He said ideally a third party and independents will agree to form coalition with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, stating: “In the next two to three weeks we should have far greater clarity on people’s willingness to engage.”

Speaking on Morning Ireland earlier, Martin Hayden, chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, also defended the document.

He said it is “a starting point” to facilitate negotiations between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, smaller parties and independent groupings. 

“This is not a programme for government, a programme for government would be a much more detailed document,” Heydon said.

He added that there are “plenty of specifics” in the document such as a commitment not to increase income tax in the next Dáil term and to protect social welfare rates. 

Heydon said continuing to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic remains Fine Gael’s top priority but there has been “two months of stagnation” since the general election and the party is “looking to step up to the plate and show leadership” in terms of forming a government.

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Órla Ryan

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