FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin has again been forced to rule out leading his party into coalition with Sinn Fein as his rise in the polls continues.
Mr Martin sent out conflicting signals in the past week, first saying he wouldn't rule anything "in or out" – but then claiming Sinn Fein wasn't compatible with Fianna Fail.
But he is now insisting it will not happen, saying there is "no compatibility" between the two parties because of their different economic policies. When asked if he would lead Fianna Fail into coalition with Sinn Fein, Mr Martin replied: "No."
"It is much too early and too presumptuous for any party to be talking about the composition of future governments," Mr Martin told the Irish Independent. "My focus is on building a positive and constructive policy agenda for Fianna Fail - one based on economic growth, job creation and fairness. I see no compatibility between Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein."
But Eamon O Cuiv, Fianna Fail's former deputy leader, has again raised the possibility of a power deal between the two parties.
Another opinion poll has shown Fianna Fail as the most popular party in the country, now standing at 27pc, compared with 25pc for Fine Gael, 20pc for Sinn Fein and 13pc for Labour.
The Millward Brown poll for the 'Sunday Independent' confirms a previous poll which had Fianna Fail out in front. Tellingly, the polling was also carried out after the Government secured a deal on the promissory notes and liquidated the former Anglo Irish Bank
The latest poll also shows a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein coalition would well outstrip the current Fine Gael-Labour partnership.
Last summer, Mr O Cuiv said the two parties would make natural coalition partners because of their shared republicanism.
It led Mr Martin to point to the difference between the economic policies of Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail as a reason why his party could not share power, but he caused further confusion last week when he wouldn't rule it out.
In a further change, he said in another weekend interview that he wouldn't share power with Sinn Fein. Mr Martin also said a "certain element" of Sinn Fein "engage in intimidation for political points".
And his spokesman now insists the gulf in economic policy between them would make coalition unworkable.
But Mr O Cuiv continues to stand by his views, despite provoking huge controversy almost a year ago. Speaking to the Irish language weekly newspaper 'Gaelsceal' ahead of the weekend opinion poll results, the Galway West TD said Sinn Fein would have to make its own choice.
But he noted that the combined strength of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein in recent opinion polls suggested that both parties could form a government in the near future.
He said survey trends suggested that another potential government option would see a combination of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, which he did not favour.
"I must say I would be headed in the Republican direction," he said when asked which was his preferred option in that case.
When asked if a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition would be a runner, Mr Martin's spokesman said: "That's not on anyone's agenda."
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