Micheál Martin rules out ‘grand coalition’ with Fine Gael

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has ruled out a “grand coalition” with Fine Gael.

Speaking in Dublin, Mr Martin said: “People want change, they want Fine Gael out of office.

“Fine Gael need to come out of government, they have been there too long and they haven’t delivered.”

Mr Martin was responding to a comment from Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar during last night’s Virgin Media One TV debate in which he said his party would consider a coalition with Fianna Fáil, if that was the only option to deliver stable government.

Mr Martin said that Fine Gael was “demonising” the party on the one hand, but then wanting to go into government with Fianna Fáil on the other.

He said it was “Jekyll and Hyde behaviour”, which he said “doesn’t wash with the public”.

Responding to Mr Martin’s comments, Mr Varadkar said the “Jekyll and Hyde” allegation could also be levelled at Fianna Fáil.

Mr Varadkar said that if the numbers after the election failed to give Fine Gael an overall majority, the responsible thing to do would be to work with Fianna Fáil to create a stable government.

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Speaking to RTÉ News at Castleknock Community College in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said: “I suppose I could say the same.”

He added: “Fianna Fáil has been engaged with us in a confidence and supply agreement for two-and-a-half years and likes to take credit for what’s happened in government when it suits them, and likes to disown any involvement in government when it doesn’t.

“I think probably that’s a criticism that could be levied in the other direction as well.

“What I said last night was that my preference is of course that Fine Gael will lead the next government.

“We’d like to do so with parties with whom we’ve come together with before, like Labour and Independents, and perhaps parties like the Greens [who] we haven’t formed coalitions with before, but we’ve some things in common at least and a lot in common in many areas.

“But if the numbers fall a certain way, and the only way to form a stable government is for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to cooperate and come together, I think that’s the responsible thing to do for the country.

“You know, we’ve seen in Spain and Israel, where politicians have plunged their country into second elections and third elections and the results don’t change very much. I think we need to be responsible.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she would not enter into a confidence and supply arrangement with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

Ms McDonald also denied that Sinn Féin is engaging in auction politics.

Speaking during a visit to the Cork East constituency, she said Sinn Féin’s proposals were not about auction politics but about building a decent society.

Ms McDonald said she was not surprised by Mr Varadkar’s offer of a grand coalition during last night’s debate as the two parties have “effectively been in government together for the past four years”.

Additional Reporting Vincent Kearney, Samantha Libreri