FF still aiming to form coalition government
Fine Gael election strategists were last night delighted by what they termed "a Fianna Fáil admission" that they cannot be in government after the next election.
Fianna Fáil's new director of elections, Billy Kelleher, yesterday predicted the party will have between 35 and 40 TDs next time out. He also utterly ruled out coalition with either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin after the next election.
This led Fine Gael to argue that Fianna Fáil has no chance of achieving the required minimum of 79-plus TDs to put together a stable coalition after the election next spring. "This is an admission that they will spend the next five years on the opposition benches," a senior Fine Gael source told the Irish Independent.
But Mr Kelleher defended his statements as honest and accused the Government parties of being deluded. He said Fianna Fáil will be in the hunt for a seat in all the 40 constituencies in the next election and his estimate of seat wins was conservative - based on a considerable increase on its current 21 TDs.
Mr Kellleher said Fianna Fáil can become the biggest party in the next Dáil and lead a coalition of parties and Independents other than Fine Gael or Sinn Féin. "When you talk about potential coalitions you have to consider compatibility of policies. Labour said they would mitigate Fine Gael austerity - but they have not done that," he said.
Fianna Fáil's Seán Ó Fearghaíl said it was wrong to assume that the coalitions involving only Fine Gael and Sinn Féin were the only option after the next election. "There is a mood for change and there will be smaller parties and Independents," he argued.