Belfast Telegraph

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail 'will not get into bed with Sinn Fein'

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald will be frozen out of talks to form the next Irish Government because the contenders for Taoiseach still view her party as soft on crime.

The Dublin TD has called for Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to "wake up and smell the coffee" - but both men have said they will not do business with her.

The Taoiseach said: "Sinn Fein is not a normal party.

"They're soft on crime; we can see that by the fact that they are opposing the renewal of the Special Criminal Court."

He added that a TD who was recently convicted of engaging in abusive behaviour to a garda has faced no sanction to date.

"Everybody makes mistakes but surely there has to be some consequences for that?" he said. Sinn Fein said the TD, Pat Buckley, has apologised and the party will look at the issue following the conclusion of his case.

A sentencing date is due to be held in November.

Fine Gael has long promoted itself as the party of law and order, leading Mr Varadkar to argue that while he will work with Sinn Fein in the Dail, he will not form a government with them.

"Sinn Fein is the second biggest party in Northern Ireland so of course we have to work with them and deal with them just as we do the DUP, the UUP, Alliance - but that's a very big difference from forming a government," he said.

Mr Varadkar said that despite Ms McDonald's public statements about wanting to form a government, there has been no private behind-the-scenes overtures from the party.

Speaking on RTE's The Week In Politics, Ms McDonald dismissed the idea that her party is not fit for office as "a load of bunkum" and said her party are "not going to sit on the sidelines".

Meanwhile, Mr Martin accused Ms McDonald of making a "flat" speech at her party's ard fheis that was devoid of any substance.

He also hit out at the party for failing to unequivocally condemn the murders of Paul Quinn and Robert McCartney and the La Mon bombing. He said: "There was no radical proposals or solutions contained within the speech.

"And there was a sense of entitlement, that somehow Fianna Fail or Fine Gael owed Sinn Fein power.

"I think what is revealing in the last week and revealing from Mary Lou McDonald's speech is this sense that Sinn Fein and Fine Gael are all talking about power, getting into power, and not focusing on the key issues and the key challenges facing the people of the country."

Ms McDonald addressed a range of matters, including homelessness, hospital waiting lists and the cervical smear check controversy.

Fianna Fail's confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael underpinning the minority government is nearing the end of its agreed period.

It effectively runs out after the October budget. On Saturday Ms McDonald said her party would not be excluded from Government by Mr Martin or Leo Varadkar. She said it was no longer "their way or the highway" and it was up to the people to decide.

Mr Martin told RTE he still harboured concerns about how Sinn Fein operated despite the change in leadership.

He added: "Just because you change the podium, you don't change the party."

Belfast Telegraph

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