Leading FF TDs reject coalition with Sinn Féin

Niall Collins: no truck with SF

Niall O'Connor and Daniel McConnell

Two prominent Fianna Fáil politicians have ruled out going into coalition with Sinn Féin.

Limerick TD Niall Collins described Sinn Féin as a "cult", adding that he believed the party's policies would "destroy" the economy.

"The cases of (abuse victims) Mairia Cahill and Paudie McGahon illustrate that Sinn Féin is not fit to govern," Mr Collins told the Irish Independent.

Serious concern about the prospect of entering coalition with Sinn Féin was also expressed by Fianna Fáil's environment spokesman, Barry Cowen.

"Of course I, like many others, would have serious reservations," Mr Cowen said.

It emerged yesterday that several of the party's TDs believe a Fianna Fáil/Sinn Féin coalition would be on the cards - if Gerry Adams was not Sinn Féin leader.

Fianna Fáil TDs John McGuinness, Éamon Ó Cuív and Colm Keaveney have all indicated their openness to such a partnership.

Mr Adams has to date given no indication of plans to step down.

The move by Mr Collins and Mr Cowen to distance themselves from their colleagues will further stoke the debate within Fianna Fáil.

The party's leader, Mícheál Martin, has previously ruled out such a coalition option.

Meanwhile, Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris of Fine Gael said it was now clear that Fianna Fáil would "consider anything to regain power".

He added: "A vote for Fianna Fáil at the next general election could be a vote for Sinn Féin.

"This is becoming clear today, with a group of Fianna Fáil TDs saying they will happily go into coalition with Sinn Féin.

"The mask has slipped and we now know that Fianna Fáil would consider anything to regain power, including putting Gerry Adams' party into Government."