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Sinn Fein TD defends 'Up the Ra' video as party talks to begin

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David Cullinane says ‘Up the Ra’ at an event in Waterford

David Cullinane says ‘Up the Ra’ at an event in Waterford

David Cullinane says ‘Up the Ra’ at an event in Waterford

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has defended saying "up the RA" at an event marking his re-election to the Dáil.

In a video from a post-election rally, Mr Cullinane said: "Up the Republic, Up the 'Ra. Tiocfaidh ár lá."

Mr Cullinane was addressing supporters after being re-elected to the Dáil for a third term.

Before he made the comments, he praised IRA hunger striker Kevin Lynch who ran as a candidate in Waterford in 1981 while being imprisoned in the North.

Mr Cullinane said yesterday he never distanced himself from the IRA or the hunger strikers since entering politics.

"I'm never one who will distance myself from Sinn Féin's past, or the IRA's," he told Today FM. "The bottom line is that the IRA is gone, it doesn't mean we don't celebrate or commemorate those volunteers."

Mr Cullinane is Sinn Féin's climate change spokesperson and previously held the party's Brexit portfolio.

The Waterford TD was elected on Sunday with more than 20,000 first-preference votes.

Meanwhile, party leader Mary Lou McDonald will put pressure on Micheal Martin to go into government by presenting him with a ready-made coalition.

Sinn Fein will seek to get the Green Party and Social Democrats on board before talking to Fianna Fail about forming a government.

Eamon Ryan will be offered the climate change portfolio and Roisin Shortall health in a multi-party coalition.

Sinn Fein will look to take the housing portfolio.

The move comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cleared the path for Sinn Fein to form a coalition with left-wing parties or Fianna Fail.

Votes

"Sinn Fein won the most votes so the onus is on them to try for a government with left-wing parties or Fianna Fail," Mr Varadkar told the Herald.

Fianna Fail is also leaving it to Sinn Fein to seek to put an alternative left-wing coalition together.

However, without Fianna Fail, the other parties don't have the numbers to have a majority.

But a string of Fianna Fail TDs have stated their opposition to going into government with Sinn Fein.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin will also be contacted, but he has already indicated a reluctance to deal with Sinn Fein.

The opening rounds of negotiations between the three left-wing parties will focus on seeking common ground on housing, health and economic policies.

Even the position of taoiseach would be on the table in talks with Fianna Fail, the Herald understands.

Ms McDonald might yet have the backing of the Greens and Social Democrats to become taoiseach. But this would be yielded in negotiations with Fianna Fail - at a price. The finance minister post would also be up for grabs between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.

Sinn Fein will appoint a negotiating team for coalition talks as soon as possible.

Senior Fianna Fail figures said they would allow Sinn Fein to form a government with the other left-wing parties.

"If they want Venezuela or whatever let them go off and put it together," a senior source said, before adding: "We won't be helping them."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's ard chomhairle met last night to sign off on its negotiation priorities.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Ms McDonald said she would approach Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in the coming days.

"In talking to everybody the real litmus test is therefore how much change you can agree and how much change can be delivered," she said.

Tricky

She said "the mathematics of this Dail are tricky" and that the "two-party system is broken forever".

The ard chomhairle meeting was attended by a number of senior figures in Sinn Fein who are based in Northern Ireland including deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, party chairman Declan Kearney and the North's finance minister Conor Murphy, who was forced to apologise last week for referring to murder victim Paul Quinn as a criminal in 2007.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen said his party did not have a mandate to go into government and suggested they would be better off in opposition.

"I don't believe 22pc of the vote is a vote of confidence in our ability to govern," Mr Cowen said.

"I don't believe losing a few seats is an indication of success. [Sinn Fein] need to take their ambition seriously now and ensure we get a government from the Left."

Mr Cowen said Ms McDonald and the Left should "form a government, find the €22bn and off they go".