Dissent in FF and FG over coalition with Greens

June 22nd, 2020 7:05 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Cllr Deirdre Kelly, FF, against the coalition deal.

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FOUR public representatives in West Cork have declared their intention to vote against the agreed programme for government.

Fianna Fáil Cllrs Deirdre Kelly and Sean O’Donovan, as well as Fine Gael Cllrs Kevin Murphy and Karen Coakley said they will be voting ‘no’ in the postal ballot on Friday, June 26th.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party agreed a programme for government on Monday night, but Cllrs Kelly and O’Donovan are part of a concerted group of 50 Fianna Fáil councillors that formed an online campaign called Fairer Future.

Deirdre Kelly, who was co-opted to the Council last February to replace Christopher O’Sullivan TD, told The Southern Star: ‘I am standing up for my beliefs and principles.

‘My position is based on the feedback I am getting from members in my constituency – I believe they must have a voice.’

Cllr Sean O’Donovan said he will be voting ‘against’ on the basis that he ‘can’t see anything in the programme for rural Ireland, or West Cork. The programme is very much a Green Party agenda and that will not benefit West Cork.’

Cllr Joe Carroll (FF), who had been expected to vote against, said he will, in fact, be supporting the programme.

The long-serving Skibbereen-based councillor acknowledged that there is an historic reluctance among Fianna Fáil grass root members to go into government with Fine Gael.

But he added: ‘Having analysed the situation, we have no other option other than a general election, and no one wants that.’

Put another way, Cllr Carroll said: ‘If you don’t get the darling you love, you must love the darling you get.’ And – for the record – he wanted it noted: ‘From a rural point of view, I’m not too happy with the Greens.’

Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan TD, Senator Denis O’Donovan and Cllr Gillian Coughlan are expected to vote in favour, but Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said he is ‘undecided.’

Fianna Fáil party leader, and Taoiseach in waiting, Micheál Martin, acknowledged that the issue will now be the subject of ‘a vigorous debate’ and that it only requires a simple majority vote from its 18,000 party members to succeed.

Within Fine Gael, 50% of the voting rights rests with its TDs and Senators, while the remainder comes from its 21,000 members.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney (FG) said the party would spend the next few days persuading its membership that ‘this is a template to get our country back to work.’

Fine Gael Cllrs Marie O’Sullivan and Katie Murphy are likely to support the plan, but Cllr Kevin Murphy said he is most definitely opposed to coalition on the basis that Fine Gael should have left the formation of a government to Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. ‘There was no onus on us to form a government,’ he said.

Cllr Karen Coakley (FG) outlined her position saying: ‘I feel very strongly about this. Right from the start, I’ve held the belief that grass root members are not being listened to.’

Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) said: ‘My gut instinct is to vote against, but I am taking guidance and, so far, it’s negative,’ while Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard said he will be ‘taking to the members in Cork South West before deciding.’

The Green Party needs a 66% majority amongst its 3,000 members and this too could prove problematic after three of its 12 TDs abstained from the vote on Monday night.

West Cork party member, Bernie Connolly, who was unsuccessful in her attempt to win a seat in Cork South West in the last general election, is of the opinion that ‘there is enough in the programme for government for people to vote in favour of it.’

She said: ‘We are in a difficult situation with Covid-19, but other challenges – such as housing, climate change, biodiversity and health – have not gone away and must be addressed as soon as possible.’

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