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Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald attended the rally in Cork. Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images
Public Meeting

Hundreds of people attend Sinn Féin rally in Cork

Sinn Féin meetings are planned across the country in the coming weeks.

BETWEEN 800 AND 1,000 people attended a meeting in Cork last night to rally public support for Sinn Féin’s efforts to get into government.

Over the next fortnight, further meetings are planned for Dublin, Galway, Cavan and Newry.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the rally is a continuation of “a conversation” she has been having around the country with voters.

“Tonight is very much a conversation. I don’t think it is wise that the election happens, people cast their vote and then the politicians disappear behind high walls and have discussions and leave people out. I think it is healthier to involve people, listen to people, answer their questions and listen to their ideas,” she said. 

I’m not going to claim the trademark on public meetings, this is a thing that good political parties do. Certainly for me as the leader of Sinn Fein it is important that we maintain people’s interest in politics, rebuild faith in politics and at the heart of that is listening to what people say.

McDonald has described Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s description of their public meetings as “ridiculous”.

Speaking ahead of their first public meeting in Cork last night, she said: “I think his comments were completely over the top. It is obvious the political establishment are struggling with the result of the election.”

“I think they are having difficulty coming to terms with it but that is what they must do. For a reasonable, sensible person – the suggestion that holding public meetings is somehow an affront to democracy is ridiculous,” she said. 

Varadkar hit out at Sinn Fein’s plans to hold rallies, describing them as a campaign of “intimation and bullying”.

The party has organised a number of public meetings on both sides of the border to drum up support in its bid to be part of the next government.

Varadkar said the plans are an “unwelcome development”.

“Generally what happens in a democracy is people vote, the votes are counted and then parties try to form a government,” he said.

“What’s happening here … it seems that Sinn Fein, having won less than a quarter of the vote, are behaving as if they have won a majority,” he added. 

“My party regularly won more than a quarter of the vote and didn’t get into government.

“I think these rallies are designed to be the next phase in Sinn Fein’s campaign of intimation and bullying.

general-election-ireland-2020 Thomas Gould of Sinn Fein topped the poll in Cork North Central. Yui Mok / PA Wire/PA Images Yui Mok / PA Wire/PA Images / PA Wire/PA Images

“We saw that online and now we are seeing it in their rallies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next step is that they take it to the streets.

“It just shows you, again, that they are not a normal party; this is a party that has a casual relationship with democracy.”

Varadkar is meeting Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin today.

The Fine Gael leader previously said his party was preparing to go into opposition.

Varadkar denied that the meeting between the two leaders was a change in Fine Gael’s approach to government.

“As I said last week, we would be willing to engage in exploratory talks with any party that wants to speak to us,” he said.

“That’s happening with Fianna Fail and the Greens this week. Labour have their own issues and don’t want to talk, and Social Democrats cancelled their meeting we offered them, so really it’s just exploratory discussions at this point with Fianna Fail and the Greens this week.

“What I would say is that the onus really still falls with Sinn Fein to form a government.

“They on the left believe they won the election, they have an opportunity now to prove that now by forming a government, and if they can’t form a government they should fess up and say they didn’t actually win the election, and even if they had they disagree with each other so much that they wouldn’t have been able to form a government anyway.”

Yesterday, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said that criticism of the public rallies was “hysterics”. 

With reporting from Dominic McGrath

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