Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald says she would prefer to form a government without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
She said contact is being made with other parties and independents.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said Sinn Féin has “won the election and won the popular vote” but also that she will speak to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar because “that’s what grown ups do.”
She added she was glad Micheál Martin had “come to his senses” and would consider including Sinn Féin in the formation of a government.
During the campaign, the leaders of both the main parties ruled out entering government with Sinn Féin, citing ethical and policy reasons.
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane told The Irish World recently that unfortunately for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil the ‘people will decide’.
Ms McDonald said the election has been historic and that the old two-party system is now gone and a thing of the past.
Sinn Féin won more votes than any other political party in Saturday’s election.
The party won almost a quarter of first-preference votes, possibly pipping Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the two rivals that have taken turns ruling Ireland for a century.
Although they won in many constituencies, Sinn Féin may still be excluded from power. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael both ran more candidates and are expected to each win more seats than Sinn Féin so it is unclear which parties will be able to form a viable coalition. Deadlock could lead to another election.
Mary Lou also said that “with the benefit of hindsight” the party should have run more candidates because there is no doubt that there are constituencies where candidates have been left behind.
She said that Sinn Féin wants a good government, a people’s government and the chance to implement many of its policies.Show
On Sunday evening, Varadkar told journalists in Dublin: “For us, coalition with Sinn Fein is not an option, but we are willing to talk to other parties.”
Asked if Fianna Fáil would now consider sharing power with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin, Martin appeared to leave the door ajar, citing a need for stability amid political fragmentation. “The country comes first … there is an onus and an obligation on all that such a functioning government is formed after this.”
With 96% of first-preference votes tallied on Sunday, Sinn Féin had 24.1%, with Fianna Fáil on 22.1%, Fine Gael on 22.1%, Greens on 7.4%, and small leftwing parties and independents comprising the rest.
It was a stunning result for Sinn Féin, which was the IRA’s political wing during the Troubles and remained a fringe party in the republic until well after the 1998 Good Friday agreement.
Sinn Féin’s success is an indication of just how disillusioned Ireland had become with the main parties and particularly with Fine Gael who had been in power for nine years but were not seen to be doing enough to combat soaring rents, homelessness, insurance costs and hospital waiting lists.
Preliminary vote tallies suggested Sinn Féin could win around 36 seats, up from 22 in the outgoing Dáil, far exceeding its own expectations.
Gerry Adams, who stepped down as party leader in 2018 and as a Dáil member in this election, credited McDonald’s leadership and said he had not foreseen the extent of the gains. He said Sinn Féin would use its mandate to plan for a united Ireland – a defining tenet for the party.
On Sunday night he tweeted: “I’m disappointed that [deputy prime minister] Simon Coveney says Fine Gael won’t talk to Sinn Féin. Obviously a misguided effort to wrong foot Fianna Fail. But I thought he was better than that. Incompatible policies fair enough. But has he learned nothing from the DUP? Sinn Fein voters lesser voters?”
The issue of a united Ireland barely featured in the campaign, but an exit poll of voters found most supporting a border poll in the next five years.