Fine Gael divided over coalition with Fianna Fáil
Taoiseach told 'end civil war politics to save the economy'
A major split is emerging in Fine Gael over the possibility of calling an end to civil war politics and forming a coalition with Fianna Fáil after the next general election.
Fine Gael's ambitions of returning the Coalition for a second term took a hammering this weekend as the party dropped a massive five points in the 'Sunday Independent'/Millward Brown opinion poll.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny's party stands at 24pc and is now just a single point ahead of Fianna Fáil (23pc) with just months to go before the country goes to the polls.
With Labour at 7pc, the likelihood of returning the Coalition is increasingly unlikely.
Now, the real possibility of Fine Gael forming a future coalition with its civil war rivals is being openly discussed by party members who believe it is the only government that will ensure economic stability for another five years.
Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy yesterday insisted "civil war politics had been replaced by the politics of fundamental economics".
"Fianna Fáil will make their own minds up but, collectively, if such a coalition kept out the dangerous elements of the left, it obviously should be considered," Mr Deasy told the Irish Independent.
"The divide is alive and well in both party structures but as far as the public is concerned it's dying a death and the public don't believe there is any discernible difference between either party," he added.
Fine Gael Cork East TD Tom Barry said there was "very little differentiating" Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voters in his constituency "except history".
"Both parties have been pro-enterprise and pro-employment and that's where the country needs to go," said Mr Barry.
Another senior Fine Gael figure, who did not want to be named, said the party did not want to "upset" its Coalition partners in Labour by speaking publicly about coalescing with Fianna Fáil.
"An awful lot of deputies and senators see the benefit of coalition with Fianna Fáil but not all of them would say it," the source said.
Ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney previously suggested they would have no problem with a future coalition with Fianna Fáil.
Sinn Féin, at 21pc, is unlikely to find a coalition partner in either of the main parties.
However, the possibility of a left-wing coalition fronted by Sinn Féin is seen by many as a real threat to stability.
But the upper echelons of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are adamantly opposed to coalition, fearing it will leave the gate open for Sinn Féin to become the main opposition party.
Chairman of Fine Gael's election committee Brian Hayes yesterday categorically ruled out coalition with Fianna Fáil.
"We are committed to getting Fine Gael and Labour re-elected and I still think we can do that. We need to be over 40pc and I certainly think we can gain the extra percentages required," said Mr Hayes.
"I don't believe Fianna Fáil want that (coalition) and Fine Gael certainly don't want it. Why would we want to be linked to the political party that effectively bankrupt the county?" he added.
Some in Fianna Fáil fear the party will be obliterated as a minor coalition partner and believe they are better off biding their time in opposition for another five years. Fianna Fáil Mayo TD Dara Calleary insisted a coalition between the parties would be "bad for democracy".