Finance Minister warns alliance of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin would be a meeting of the 'wreckers'
Paschal Donohoe has raised the political heat by describing Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald as "dangerous" and arguing that she will be put into power by Micheál Martin's "spineless" Fianna Fáil party.
It is a claim that has been rejected outright by senior figures in Fianna Fáil who believe the outgoing Government party is now becoming desperate in its attacks.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Donohoe said there was a "cocktail of risk to jobs, taxpayers, public services" and the economy from such an alliance.
The minister's intervention came after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was forced to defend Fine Gael TDs who said they were open to working with Sinn Féin in government.
Mr Varadkar said there was a "difference" between his party's members saying there are "good people" in Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil TDs saying they would be open to going into coalition with Ms McDonald.
Fine Gael claims there is sufficient support among Fianna Fáil TDs to go into such a coalition with Sinn Féin.
Mr Donohoe said: "I believe we could have a government that will be a combination of the dangerous and the spineless.
"Dangerous in that we will have policies from Sinn Féin that could scorch our economy; spineless because I don't believe that Fianna Fáil will be able to resist those ideas."
The Fine Gael director of elections says the party will be hammering the point home on doorsteps over the next week that there is a huge risk to the country.
"Fianna Fáil on its own, I would have grave concern about. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin together is a policy cocktail that would be bad for jobs, bad for taxpayers and bad for our ability to improve public services," he added.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath rejected Mr Donohoe's claims and accused Fine Gael of leaving the door open to going into power with Sinn Féin.
"As each day passes, the Fine Gael campaign becomes more dishonest, more desperate and more duplicitous," he said.
"Our leader and our party have been very clear that in no circumstance will we be having any arrangement with Sinn Féin after the election.
"We made and kept that promise in 2016 and w e have made and will keep that promise in 2020."
Mr Varadkar said he has "nothing personally against individuals in Sinn Féin".
"I worked closely with some of them on Northern Ireland," he added.
"There is a big difference between saying that there are people in Sinn Féin who are good people, and people who you can work with on the situation in Northern Ireland, and being open to a coalition with them."
The Taoiseach's comments came after he listed the Fianna Fáil TDs who previously said they were open to going into government with Sinn Féin during a live televised election debate.
He said Fianna Fáil TDs Mary Butler, Kevin O'Keeffe, Darragh O'Brien and Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher backed a coalition with Sinn Féin.
Last night Mr O'Brien said the Taoiseach was "wrong" in his suggestion.
"I fully support the leader and as you can see from his comment, it is Leo who has cozied up to Mary Lou not Micheál," he added.
Mr Martin dismissed Fine Gael claims his party is divided, and claimed that it's Mr Varadkar who couldn't be trusted on the issue.
He said that the same argument was made by Fine Gael before the 2016 election and "I didn't do business with Sinn Féin".
He said Mr Varadkar's comments on Fianna Fáil TDs in favour of a coalition with Ms McDonald's party was "more electioneering".
Mr Martin added: "He [Mr Varadkar] had some TDs in his own party as well - Jim Daly, Kate O'Connell - who were arguing for a Sinn Féin alliance.
"I wouldn't trust Leo in terms of not doing a deal with Sinn Féin. I think Leo would do whatever it takes to get himself back in the Taoiseach's position.
"My record speaks for itself. I've said at the last election what I would do and I stood by what I said."
Mr Martin said he wasn't concerned that some high-profile members of his own party have said in the past they would be open to working with Sinn Féin.
He added: "The vast majority of Fianna Fáil don't want any truck with Sinn Féin."
A number of Fine Gael figures have said they would be happy to participate with Sinn Féin. Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said there were "fabulous" people in Sinn Féin.
High-profile Fine Gael TD Ms O'Connell also left the door open to a coalition with Sinn Féin, saying "anything can happen" when asked about working with the party. She also called Ms McDonald a "very capable woman".
Outgoing Fine Gael Junior Minister Mr Daly said he had "no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government".