FORMER Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald has poured cold water on Fine Gael's dream of achieving an overall majority in Friday's general election.
Speaking at the University of Limerick yesterday, Mr FitzGerald (85) said the "absolute maximum" number of seats Fine Gael would win was 78.
However, the result would still represent a record haul of seats for the party.
Mr FitzGerald led Fine Gael to their best election result in November 1982 when Fine Gael captured 70 seats and went on to form a government with Labour.
"I have been to each constituency. I can't see where the 79th will come from -- maybe I will be proved wrong. I'm not sure they will get that (78 seats). That is if everything goes right everywhere," Mr FitzGerald said.
He predicted Fianna Fail would emerge from the election with between 25 and 30 seats, but said the party "will eventually recover".
The former Fine Gael leader also said he believed Enda Kenny would be best served by going into government with Labour.
He said any future government seeking the support of Independent TDs would be "disastrous".
"With Independents, you have no idea. They can blackmail you for something in their constituency. They can be pestering you for their own particular things they want," Dr FitzGerald said.
"You shouldn't have to govern when you haven't got a clear majority."
He said a Fine Gael-Labour government would be "much more solid" than a government supported by Independents.
"They have to sort out some difficulties between them. They have a number of things in common, but there also some divergences. If they sort those out and stick together for five years, you have the kind of majority needed to do all the unpopular things that need to be done."
Dr FitzGerald described suggestions to abolish the Senate as "populism" and said he would not abolish the Upper House as it had provided "good debate" on various bills in the past.
Addressing UL students, he criticised recent comments by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore when he described the President of the European Central Bank, Jean Claude Trichet as a "civil servant".
"I think it is a mistake if you say you are going to renegotiate something and insult the person you are renegotiating with," he said.
Canvassing with his young grandchildren in Limerick yesterday, another former Fine Gael leader, Michael Noonan, was keeping his cards close to his chest, insisting he was not looking beyond Friday's ballot.
"You can't take anything for granted," he said.
"In the last election, it changed quite a bit in the last week. If we can sustain our vote, we will be in negotiation for a government one way or another," Mr Noonan said.