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'Not part of the mainstream': Varadkar says SF Govt would diminish Ireland's influence in Europe

The FG leader hit out against Sinn Féin stating the party would ‘wreck’ the economy.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

IRELAND WOULD BE “out of the tent” and its influence in Europe would be diminished if Sinn Féin are in government after the next election, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Speaking ahead of his party’s think-in in Kilkenny, the Fine Gael leader lead a scathing attack on Sinn Féin drawing comparisons between Sinn Féin and the far-right Government in Hungary lead by Viktor Orban. 

Varadkar said Sinn Féin was “not part of the mainstream” and will push Ireland to the periphery of Europe. 

The Tánaiste said he wanted to be “very clear” in stating that “Fine Gael will not facilitate a Sinn Féin Government” after the next election. 

“We will not form a coalition with Sinn Féin. Full stop,” he said.

“We would see jobs, investment, and wealth leave the country, the cake would get smaller, there would be less money for everyone. And instead of being at the heart of the European Union, we would have a far-left Eurosceptic party representing us at the table.  That would diminish our influence,” he said.

If Mary Lou McDonald became Taoiseach, she would be one of the only prime ministers outside of the tent “of the normal mainstream parties”, similar to Viktor Orbán of Hungary, he said.

“It is that serious,” he said. 

In 2021, Orban announced that his right-wing Fidesz party was leaving the EPP after the parliamentary grouping changed its rules to allow it to exclude MEPs en masse. 

Fine Gael is also part of the centre-right EPP, the largest bloc in the European Parliament. In 2018, when Varadkar was Taoiseach, he was widely criticised for visiting Orban in Hungary. 

‘Outside the tent’

A Sinn Féin Government would mean that “instead of being at the heart of the European Union with a pro-European Government, a Government that gets invited to the pre- meetings, the post-meetings, who is in the tent there when decisions are made, we would have a Eurosceptic Government and our influence would be diminished”.

When put to him that the public might feel that “mainstream” parties have failed the people given current crises and asked what he meant about there being an issue with someone from outside of the larger political groupings representing Ireland in Europe, Varadkar said:

“I don’t mean outsiders. I mean extremists, I mean Eurosceptics.”

“It’s very unusual for a country to be led by the far-left or by the far right. We’ve a normal left in Ireland, which is the Labour Party, but there’s also a populist far-left, and that is the SF party,” he added.

McDonald has historically campaigned against the Euro and was against the single market, said Varadkar.

“They were against the fiscal treaty. And even today, they’re against European Free Trade Agreements… they’re against increased European security cooperation… they’re a Euro critical, Eurosceptic party. They’re not a central party, they’re not part of the mainstream,” he said. 

His comments come as the Sinn Féin leader met with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in the US. 

unnamed McDonald meeting Pelosi in California yesterday. Source: Sinn Fein

McDonald is in San Francisco for a series of engagements with business leaders, the local Irish community, trade unions and political leaders.

In her meeting with Pelosi, McDonald said she thanked her for her steadfast commitment to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and ensuring that the Irish people do not become collateral damage to the Tories’ Brexit plans.

“Speaker Pelosi’s commitment to protecting peace and all elements of the Good Friday Agreement is unshakeable,” said McDonald.

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