Leah Farrell/
Fighting Talk

Mary Lou McDonald says best government would be one 'without either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael'

Sinn Féin is holding its think-in in Dublin today to strategise ahead of the new Dáil term as elections loom.

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said that the best outcome of the next general election would be a government “without either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael”.

The party is meeting in Dublin today ahead of the new Dáil term to strategise as local and European elections loom, with the prospect of the next general election also coming closer. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin, meanwhile, have convened their parties’ ‘think-ins’ in Limerick and Tipperary this week to forge their path forward.

Political speculation and polling analysis since the 2020 election, in which Sinn Féin pulled off its best ever performance, has often suggested the possibility of a Sinn Féin-Fianna Fáil coalition.

However, McDonald has insisted this morning that the “very best outcome in our view of the next election would be the opportunity of a government for change without either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael”.

Members of Sinn Féin’s parliamentary party are set to discuss issues today including the housing crisis, cost of living, and Irish unity, as well as preparing for upcoming elections in local councils and the EU and longer-term ambitions for the next general election. 

Speaking to reporters at the start of the think-in, McDonald said: “We’re on an election footing, so we will be talking about preparation in that regard. Our ambition is to provide a government of change.”

“We take nothing for granted. There are no slam dunks. There is nothing inevitable about Sinn Féin being in government,” she said.

“However, we do believe that the appetite for political change is alive and well. It has not diminished since the last general election – in fact, if anything, it’s grown, and we think that’s a really positive thing for the country.”

A recent review of Ireland’s constituencies by the Electoral Commission means that the next election will likely come with an additional 14 Dáil seats up for grabs, bringing the total number from 160 to 174. 

“Obviously, our objective is to win as many votes as we can and to win as many seats as we can. I’m sure no different to any of the other political parties, we’re now analysing exactly what the new constituency configurations will mean,” McDonald told reporters this morning.

“After the last general election, I literally could not walk the length of myself without people telling me that we hadn’t run enough candidates. This time, we will not make that mistake.

We will be prepared, we will be match fit, and we will go to the people in all humility, but well prepared, looking for as big a mandate as we can have.

“The people are going to decide this – they will decide the balance of forces of who is elected and in what numbers, and I do think the largest party emerging ought to, by logic, be given the opportunity to form a government.”

Addressing members in her opening speech, the party leader alluded more towards the likelihood that Sinn Féin would need to form a coalition with another party in order to create a government.

“When the people do make that democratic decision, we will talk to everyone and we will put Sinn Féin’s policies for a better future firmly on the table,” she said, reiterating that “the very best outcome of that election is a new government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael for the first time in 100 years”. 

The longer Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are in government, the worst things will get. They are out touch, out of ideas, and increasingly out of time.

McDonald was critical of the current Fine Gael-Fianna Fail-Green Party government as it approaches its next Budget. 

“Despite commitments that they would deal with housing, that housing would take priority, we still see a housing crisis looming large, touching every facet of Irish life all across society and every generation at this stage,” she said, pledging that a Sinn Féin government would “make housing the number one priority”. 

She discussed the party’s wish to hold a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish Unity and said: “I believe this is the generation that will end partition… and finish the journey to full nationhood.

Looking to Northern Ireland, where the DUP has prevented the formation of an Executive since last year, McDonald said that “the game changing must stop and common sense needs to prevail”.

She referenced the climate crisis in brief, mentioning a need for “implementing an effective strategy in response to the climate emergency”.

The Sinn Féin leader has returned to work after taking some time away this summer to recover from surgery.

She said that both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste sent her well wishes and that “for the very most part across politics, people are decent and people are kind when it comes to people’s personal health” – adding with a laugh that she is “sure the lads will be thrilled out of their minds to have me back”.

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