Mary Lou McDonald has lashed out at Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil over their insistence that they will not enter Government with Sinn Féin.
Deputy McDonald’s party kicked off its biggest ever Ard Fheis this evening with some 3000 members expected to attend.
Members will debate a range of issues, including housing and abortion – with party president Gerry Adams expected to address his own future tomorrow.
Previously the party has always insisted it will not go into government as a junior coalition partner, however the Ard Fheis will debate a motion that would remove that restriction.
Earlier today, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael insisted they will not enter government with Sinn Féin under any circumstances.
However, Mary Lou McDonald said her party is not ruling out entering Government with anyone – adding that ultimately, it will be up to the voters:
“We have made it clear, we will talk to everybody after the election,” she said. “We do not appreciate – and I don’t think it is fundamentally democratic – for others who think that somehow they have a divine right to discount others,” she said.
“We present ourselves to the people; we have a democratic mandate; we have a plan for Government; we are as capable as any other.”
This afternoon, the Minister for Health Simon Harris was asked if Fine Gael would enter Government with Sinn Féin:
“No,” he said. “I am not sure who Sinn Féin are going to go into Government with because certainly from my party’s perspective, we have no interest in doing business with them.”
“That is basically on the grounds that our policy positions just simply are not compatible.”
He said that ultimately it will be up to Irish people to decide who they want to represent them following the next election, but insisted that, “from a Fine Gael perspective we couldn’t be clearer that we have no interest in going into government in any manner or means with Sinn Féin.”
Meanwhile, the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was scathing in his rejection of any potential coalition:
“It is only two years since the intelligence conclusions about the IRA still controlling the political edifice of Sinn Féin and I have also detailed other issues – so we will not be going into Government with Sinn Féin,” he said.
He said that position would remain the same regardless of who is leader.
“The leadership of Sinn Féin across – not just Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald, Pearse Doherty – have all refused to disassociate themselves from the worst atrocities of the IRA,” he said.
Gerry Adams is expected to give his Presidential Address at 8:30pm tomorrow night in the RDS in Dublin.
Mr Adams, who has been Sinn Féin president since 1983, is expected to seek re-election as party leader this weekend.
However, he is expected to use his speech to detail the party’s plan for a “process of generational change” as part of a ten-year plan for an “orderly change of leadership.”
The Ard Fheis is the party’s first since the death of Martin McGuinness in March of this year.