Fine Gael has moved to damp down suggestions by Government chief whip Regina Doherty that a coalition with Sinn Féin is a real prospect.
Officially, Fine Gael is vehemently opposed to the prospect of power-sharing and the last party person to suggest such a move, Frank Flannery, lost his job for a time. But Ms Doherty, who has been the focus of several controversies over the Christmas holidays, has praised key Sinn Féin politicians saying they were "fabulous people" and she could serve in government with them.
But a key party source last night said the chief whip's remarks "were open to interpretation" and signalled that coalition with Sinn Féin is not a realistic prospect for the future.
"We are not reading anything into this," the Fine Gael source said.
Speaking in Limerick, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams reacted coolly to the prospect of coalition with Fine Gael.
"Our party position on all of that, is that, it's up to an Ard Fheis of Sinn Féin to decide, but first of all we have to get a mandate," he told the Irish Independent.
Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan was more emphatically negative about the idea ever getting off the ground. But even he was careful not to slam the door completely.
"You never say never, in politics," Deputy Quinlan said.
"It would be very strange to see Sinn Féin and Fine Gael in government. I couldn't see any way that would ever happen, and I don't think our party would ever go into government with Fine Gael," Mr Quinlan said.
"Our politics are fundamentally different and I don't see a consensus that we could come to with Fine Gael," Mr Quinlan said. He said he and his party wanted to be in government but favoured a left-leaning "progressive government".
Ms Doherty, a TD for Meath East since 2011, has been the focus of some controversy recently. She raised eyebrows, by saying her party constituency colleague Helen McEntee, would walk past her without saying hello.