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'A forced marriage wouldn't make a good government: Varadkar continues to rule out Sinn Féin coalition

Sinn Féin’s Paul Donnelly has already been elected in the Taoiseach’s constituency.

Image: Leah Farrell

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said the Fine Gael party will not change its mind about forming a coalition with Sinn Féin, as general election results indicate a three-way tie between them and Fianna Fáil. 

“It seems that we have now a three-party system, three parties all getting roughly the same number of votes, roughly the same number of seats and that is going to make forming a government quite difficult,” Varadkar said, as he arrived at the Dublin West count centre this evening. 

“Indeed it’s not even clear yet whether any of the two parties together will have enough to form a majority in the next Dáil.”

Varadkar said he had made his party’s position about a coalition with Sinn Féin “very clear” during the campaign and that Fine Gael had won votes on that basis.

“My position hasn’t changed,” he added.

Varadkar said it was the position of Fine Gael that “a forced marriage would not result in a good government”. 

Sinn Féin’s Paul Donnelly has already been elected in the Taoiseach’s constituency, making Varadkar the first outgoing Taoiseach in Ireland not to top the poll.

He had topped the poll there in 2016, ahead of Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers. Donnelly was deemed elected with a whopping 12,456 votes and the Taoiseach well behind him on 8,478 in the first count, missing the quota.

While the Taoiseach – and several of his party’s TDs today – have continued to rule out a coalition with Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin refused to do so, despite slating Sinn Féin during the campaign and categorically stating he would not form a coalition with Mary Lou McDonald’s party.

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Speaking to RTÉ today minutes after Sinn Féin’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire topped the poll ahead of him in Cork South Central, Martin said that “principles don’t change overnight” but that issues can be teased out.

Asked about the formation of a government in the RDS today, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that her “first port of call is the other parties” aside from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Asked whether he is expecting to speak to McDonald, Martin said he thinks all sides should “let things calm down today”.

“We’ll assess it when the full count is in and the full number of seats are in. I’m a democrat. I listen to the people, I respect the decision of the people,” he said.

That said, for any government to sustain, there has to be compatibility in terms of the programme for government. It has to be coherent, and it has to be sustainable and deliverable. And there are very significant issues that can’t be glossed over in the euphoria of a of an election day and the all of the tension and the interest and excitement around it.

“And so I think, over the next number of days people will assess that situation in terms of such a policy platform,” he added. 

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