FORMER Fianna Fail deputy leader Mary O'Rourke has called on her party and Fine Gael to seriously consider going into coalition with each other.
She said that the two parties should "bridge the political divide between them and give serious thought to coming together in a political coalition come the next general election".
She is the first senior member of Fianna Fail to directly call for such a political union of the two biggest parties in the State, which have been antagonists for 90 years since each took fiercely opposing sides in the aftermath of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922.
Fianna Fail has declined to comment on her speech.
In her address she told the William Carleton Summer School in Clogher, Co Tyrone: "We, as a people, have long forgotten that the bone of contention between us as parties since the Civil War is the Treaty signed in London in those far off days."
She added: "I know quite well that there are plenty who will dismiss my reflections here today as 'Summer School Speak' or even the wild rantings of somebody who has left the political system."
Afterwards, she admitted that her declaration was likely to cause annoyance among the Fianna Fail leadership.
"They'll hate me," she said. "But sure you might as well put it out there."
However, Ms O'Rourke comes from a deeply-rooted political dynasty: her father Patrick Lenihan served as a TD for Longford-Westmeath.
She was an Oireachtas member from 1981 until the last election in 2011 and a cabinet minister in numerous government departments. She and her brother Brian Lenihan Snr became the first brother and sister in Irish history to serve in the same cabinet.
The veteran politician revealed that her decision to call for the historic coalition was inspired by the speech given by her nephew, the late Brian Lenihan Jnr, at Beal na mBlath in 2010.
The then-Finance Minister was the first member of Fianna Fail to be invited to give the annual speech at this traditionally Fine Gael event to commemorate the death of Michael Collins.
"I put a lot of thought into this. I always thought that when Brian spoke at Beal na mBlath, I felt that was what he was hinting towards," she said.
She quoted from the speech delivered in Co Cork by her nephew who died tragically of cancer in June 2011 when he declared: "If today's commemoration can be seen as a further public act of historical reconciliation, at one of Irish history's sacred places, then I will be proud to have played my part."
She insisted that a political partnership between the two parties was "a genuine option, but only if the electorate come up with it.
"It's up to the electorate. There's loads would disagree with me and loads would agree with me".
She sent an advance copy of her address to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin – but only just in advance, issuing it to the newspapers at the same time.
Typically, any suggestion that her latest declaration would be met with a rap on knuckles by an irate leadership was robustly dismissed by this experienced political street-fighter.
"Rap on knuckles? From who? I'm gone beyond being rapped on the knuckles for God's sake," she said indignantly. "Nobody raps me on the knuckles."
'At last, we can think the unthinkable'