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A changing political scene but FG has strongest hand

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Enda Kenny (Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins)

Enda Kenny (Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins)

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Enda Kenny (Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins)

Although damaged by the recent Irish Water controversy, Fine Gael is still on course to be the largest party after the next general election.

But the party's choices in terms of coalition partners are far from clear, recent opinion polls would suggest.

Here are some of the potential options on the cards:

Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil

The former enemies may be a position to form a government, as long as they can put their differences aside. But the parties would need to see their combined support increase further in the coming months. Otherwise, they may have to court the support of independents.

Fine Gael/Sinn Féin

It's a scenario that both parties insist is a fantasy. But with Sinn Féin desperate to enter government, you could expect Gerry Adams's party to row back on some of its policy positions overnight.

Fianna Fáil/Sinn Féin/Independents

This grand coalition is another option. The key question will be whether common ground can be found.

Fine Gael/Labour/Fianna Fáil

One might argue that a three-party relationship between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour is as likely as a revival of the PDs. But with Labour set to be returned with just a handful of seats, it could play a significant role in ensuring the numbers are made.

Fine Gael/New Party

Fine Gael may opt to court the interest of one of the new political parties currently in their embryonic stages. The question is, which one? Lucinda Creighton's currently unnamed party would surely run a mile if approached by her former colleagues.

The alliance being built by Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice may provide the answer for Fine Gael, but major negotiations would be required for such a coalition to survive.

Irish Independent