FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin emphatically ruled out any engagement with Sinn Féin over forming a government after the February 8 General Election as he warned there is a deep anger amongst his party's voters with Sinn Féin and their lack of contrition over what happened during the Troubles.
Mr Martin, speaking as he canvassed in Cork today, also predicted that his party will secure significantly higher than the 24pc indicated by the latest opinion polls and are in contention to elect second TDs in constituencies stretching from Dublin to Limerick and Cork.
The Fianna Fáil leader bluntly dismissed attacks from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that a FF-SF government alliance was now in the offing.
"I know what he (Mr Varadkar) is at - he is trying to frighten people away from Fianna Fáil. I would simply say that I have been very clear - judge me by my actions," he said.
"The same thing was said about me and Fianna Fáil in 2016 but, in the aftermath of the election, I did not engage with Sinn Féin. I engaged with independents but we did not have enough seats to form a Government. That is life - but I did not engage with Sinn Féin.
"He (Mr Varadkar) is underestimating the depth of anger in Fianna Fáil both in terms of not just the parliamentary party and the membership but the voters of Fianna Fáil - they have made it crystal clear to me they do not want Fianna Fáil to go into Government with Sinn Féin.
"That is it - a lot of people over a certain age remember what happened (in the Troubles). They are really annoyed by the lack of contrition, the lack of acknowledgement that what they did was wrong. Sinn Féin are still trying to shove it down people's throats that what they did was right. That it was a just war.
"That angers people - the families of Gardaí, families in the military who lost people because of this terrible thing which divided communities."
Mr Martin said Sinn Féin's economic policies also rule them out as someone Fianna Fáil could work with.
"Also because of the economic policies of Sinn Féin - they are talking about €4 billion in taxes? Irish businesses will be choked out of existence because the big hike in employers PRSI? Big hike in taxes on any profits they make? Why would you set up at all in business? Why would you set up a company and employ 15 or more people only to see, at the end of your life's work, to see it taxed out of existence?
"Our economy is an enterprise economy - we export the bulk of what we make. But Sinn Féin oppose free trade agreements. There is a sense that Sinn Féin just don't get the enterprise agenda.
"Sean Lemass opened up this economy in the 1960s and that is my philosophy. He got us to join the European Union - it was all about opening up Ireland, to stop us being only inward-looking.
"Sinn Féin don't get that - he (Mr Varadkar) is scaremongering on that."
Mr Martin stressed that there is a diversity of opinion within all political parties.
"No party is a monolith - there are lots of people with different views in all parties. We are not Russia but we are not like Sinn Féin either who tend to have a from-the-top-down (policy) and everyone does as they are told.
"I think it is healthy that in a parliamentary party you have lots of people with different views. But be in no doubt - people have supported me in my message on Sinn Féin and that is how it is going to pan out."
The Cork TD said he is convinced the recent polls are underestimating the surge in national support for Fianna Fáil.
"My first interview after the election was launched was on Sunday when
we had another opinion poll which had us way ahead - I said then we didn't accept that poll. I said there would be many polls up to February 8 which would vary.
"As far as we are concerned, we are doing well, we are very competitive in constituencies and far more competitive in our ground campaign that we were in 2016."
"Just to give you an example - take Cork North Central. Tony Fitzgerald, Padraig O'Sullivan and Sandra (Murphy). We are running three candidates but we only ran one the last time.
"We have two strong candidates in Cork South West, two in Limerick West, in Dublin South West we have three - this is a much stronger Fianna Fáil team on the ground.
"We will poll higher than that (24pc) in the election - of that we are confident. But it (the poll) is just one snapshot.
"I am not fazed by the polls because we were here before. In 2016 one poll had us on 19pc a couple of days before the election and we ended up on 25pc. We are holding our nerve on that."
Mr Martin said the polls do reflect the hunger of Irish voters for change - and what he termed the "relentlessly negative and arrogant" approach of Fine Gael.
"The one disappointing aspect of this campaign - people want us to talk about the solutions to problems in housing, healthcare and the economy. Fine Gael have been relentlessly negative in their campaigning - it is attacking Fianna Fail, it is attacking everybody else.
"They have this superiority complex that they are the only ones who can be in Government and nobody else - I think that is wrong. I think they have stopped resonating with people - I think they are insulting people. People want change - and the battle is on for who captures that vote for change. We think we have a sensible, do-able, achievable alternative with other like-minded parties and that is where we are."
UNDER pressure Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy today reveals he personally knows the struggles the homeless are going through as he’s made a point of going into hostels and has even ended up serving the residents breakfast.
The outcome of the election can be predicted. Fianna Fail will win the most seats and Fine Gael and Sinn Fein will be a close second and third. It is less easy to predict how many seats each will win, and more difficult again to predict who will be in the next Government. But here goes.
The televised debates are accessed by far more people, but are less consequential than the manifestos issued by the political parties, some running to over 100 pages and listing policy commitments in detail. The manifestos matter more than the campaign utterances, although ultimately fated to expire unread in the digital graveyard where the dead websites sleep.