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Idea of coalition with Sinn Fein provoked fury among FF TDs

FIANNA Fail officials privately admitted they would be the last party to form a government with Sinn Fein -- at the same time as they were negotiating to push the DUP into a power-sharing deal at Stormont.

In comments that will be viewed as hypocritical by unionists, party insiders conceded there was no prospect of an SF-FF pact south of the border.

The remarks were made in the wake of the controversy sparked by former Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern after he indicated Fianna Fail was willing to form a coalition.

Speaking to journalists, Mr Ahern had stated it was "only a matter of time" before Sinn Fein was in government in Dublin.

However, his comments provoked fury within Fianna Fail, with two backbench TDs warning they would resign if their party ever entered into power with Sinn Fein.

According to a leaked cable, party members also told diplomats any power-sharing deal with Sinn Fein was a non-starter.

"Privately, some Fianna Fail party members have told embassy that they are the last party that would ever form a government with Sinn Fein," the document reports.

The 'confidential' dispatch is dated October 14 2004. However, just four days later, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern publicly said it was "entirely reasonable" to expect the DUP to share power with Sinn Fein if the IRA put away its arms.

The remarks from Dermot Ahern were made at Hillsborough Castle after his first formal meeting with Northern Ireland secretary Paul Murphy.

Speaking to journalists, Mr Ahern indicated Sinn Fein could enter government if IRA violence ended.

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"Well, we have a particular stance, as you know well, but obviously if the circumstances change, the view in relation to Sinn Fein going into government will change and I believe it is a matter of time that Sinn Fein will be in government in the future," he said.


His comments provoked a backlash within the party, with then Education Minister Mary Hanafin saying Sinn Fein had "a long, long way to go".

But in subsequent conversations to diplomats, staff from the department attempted to play down the controversy.

"DFA officials say . . . that there was nothing planned about the foreign minister's remarks," the cable reports. "Rather, he responded to a question from the press in the same way he always responded before becoming foreign minister, and in a way consistent with long-standing Irish policy."

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