Ireland’s acting Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, from right-wing party Fine Gael, announced Wednesday that there is currently no basis to negotiate a government program with other parties, but that he would hold talks with the only two viable coalition partners next week.
Left-Wing Sinn Fein Wins Popular Vote in Irish General Election
“The Taoiseach (prime minister) said he does not believe there is currently sufficient basis for appointing a negotiating team or initiating discussions on a potential program for government,” Fine Gael parliamentary chairman Martin Heydon said in a statement after the meeting.
Heydon did, however, say Fine Gael had agreed to hold a one-day policy exchange with Fianna Fail next week on a number of common policy issues and would hold similar talks with the Green Party.
Varadkar and Fianna Fail’s leader Micheal Martin held preliminary talks on Tuesday and said they would meet again in a bid to break the deadlock.
Meanwhile, at a packed rally in Dublin on Tuesday, Irish left-wing party Sinn Fein demanded a place in Ireland's next government, saying the country's two dominant parties were trying to block voters' demand for change.
"They are doing everything they can to keep people who voted for us out of government," Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald told a packed hall of 500 people, with a couple of hundred more waiting in freezing wind outside. "Sinn Fein wants to be in government and we want to deliver."
In a historic win, the left-wing Irish nationalist party obtained the majority of the popular vote on the Feb. 8 general election, disrupting a 100-year-old duopoly of power between right-wing parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
Both Fianna Fail with 37 seats, and Fine Gae with 35, have ruled out sharing power with Sinn Fein, with its 37 seats. All three major parties lack the necessary majority in the 160-seat parliament to form a government.
This means it will come down to Sinn Fein’s ability to reach agreements with likely allies such as the Greens (11), Labour (6), Solidarity (5), and some local independent candidates. However, critics agree a government between Sinn Fein and several smaller left parties and independent members of parliament is unrealistic.
The leftist party, which is both active in Ireland and Northern Ireland, has been a major player in the country’s politics, especially for its inflexible position on a united Ireland.
Sinn Fein has been closely tied to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a designation used by several paramilitary organizations, fighting for all of Ireland to be an independent republic, free from British rule.
All sides predict it will take several weeks to form a government with the risk of a second election if talks fail. In this case, Sinn Fein would be best placed to increase their seat numbers, as in the Feb. 8 elections although winning the popular vote, the leftist party fielded too few candidates - just 42 candidates for the 160 seats contested -, which translated into only 37 seats.