Fianna Fáil is not lying about its position on a Sinn Féin coalition

The dramatic shift in Sinn Féin’s stance on government participation, floated by Mary Lou McDonald some months ago, was firmed up in various media contributions by Gerry Adams and others around the party’s annual “think-in” this week.

When McDonald first indicated the shift last January, many correctly identified it as a potential game-changer in the context of the Republic’s next general election.

In 2016, Sinn Féin said it would not enter government unless it was in a position after the election to be the largest party in any potential coalition. There was never any possibility it was going to be that large, so in the 2016 election Sinn Féin was effectively running for a larger position in opposition rather than any role in government.

Now, however, Sinn Féin is putting itself on the coalition market irrespective of the size of its mandate. Its leaders now say that after the next election Sinn Féin is prepared to be a junior coalition partner. They speak, of course, about how the party ardfheis will have to approve this change in strategy, but if the likes of Adams and McDonald are talking it up then ardfheis approval can be presumed.

What has not changed, however, is the stance of those with whom Sinn Féin might seek to form a coalition.

Hardened stance

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have ruled it out previously and indeed as the shift in Sinn Féin’s stance has become apparent both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have hardened their stance against governing with them.