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Ireland's Sinn Fein throws down gauntlet to Fianna Fail

AFP  |  Dublin 

Sinn Fein on Thursday challenged their rivals for office in Ireland to do a deal on forming a new government, after its dramatic election surge brought it to the brink of power.

With no party in the next parliament having secured a majority in Saturday's vote, talks to thrash out a deal started after the results were announced earlier this week.

Left-wingers Sinn Fein's 37 seats broke the stranglehold of two-party in Ireland.

Of the two centre-right parties who until now have dominated Irish politics, Fianna Fail won 38, while Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's Fine Gael secured 35.

Eighty seats are required for a majority in the Dail, Ireland's lower house of parliament, making a coalition inevitable.

The results capped a remarkable transformation for Sinn Fein, once shunned for links to IRA paramilitaries but whose policies to tackle a housing and health crisis now have popular appeal.

Leader Mary Lou McDonald on Thursday told party lawmakers she had met representatives from smaller parties the Greens (12 seats) and Solidarity-People Before Profit (five), and had spoken to Labour (six).

Further meetings were planned with the Social Democrats (six seats), she added in a speech in Dublin.

"Those talks will continue. Last night (Wednesday), I also wrote to the Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin to seek a meeting," she said.

While acknowledging "big policy incompatibilities" between the two parties, she said a "government of change" was needed in Ireland to address the country's most pressing issues.

"The question is this: will Fianna Fail sign up for that type of change? The type of change that people voted for? Can Fianna Fail be part of that change? That is a big question." Martin has previously said he would not join forces with Sinn Fein, which is also the second-largest party in the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom.

Sinn Fein's flagship policy is a reunited Ireland and it wants to call a referendum on sovereignty within five years, potentially creating another constitutional headache for Britain.

London is already under pressure from Scottish nationalists, who want a new referendum on independence.

McDonald has said she could become Ireland's first female taoiseach, or prime minister, and might even try to govern without the support of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail if she secures the support of the smaller parties.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 13 2020. 20:22 IST