Sinn Féin cosy up to FF for coalition deal
■ Adams refuses to distance party from striking bargain ■ Martin’s party is divided over issue of sharing power
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has opened the door to a future coalition with Fianna Fáil - in a move that has caused shock within his own party.
On four occasions yesterday, Mr Adams did not rule out striking a deal with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, if both parties end up in a position to form a government.
The prospect of a Sinn Féin-Fianna Fáil coalition has risen in recent weeks. A series of opinion polls suggested that both parties could have the numbers to form an alternative administration to a Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition.
During a Sinn Féin media opportunity in Leinster House, Mr Adams was asked directly if he would consider going into government with Fianna Fáil.
Mr Adams was given four opportunities to distance his party from such a coalition, but pointedly failed to do so.
"You know, the wonderful thing about the election is nobody really knows what's going to come out of it. So when we are clear what comes out of it, we'll talk with whoever we think is appropriate to talk to," he said.
Coalition with Sinn Féin is also divisive in Fianna Fáil with party leader Micheál Martin ruling it out, but a number of senior TDs leaving it open.
Mr Adams said his party will not "do what Labour did" and serve as the junior partner in a government led by a "large conservative party".
Asked whether he considered Fianna Fáil to be a "large conservative party", Mr Adams replied: "The people will decide that when we have an election. After the election, we will see who is large and who is small."
In another significant development last night, a senior Sinn Féin source set out a series of criteria which Fianna Fáil would have to meet before a coalition could be formed.
Insisting any such coalition is unlikely, the source said Fianna Fáil must first agree to two key principles of the 'Right2Change' movement - the abolition of both water charges and the local property tax.
The party figure also said Sinn Féin would only do business with Fianna Fáil if it was the largest party.
"Fianna Fáil would have to sign up to those principles and our key priorities of abolishing the property tax, water charges and Irish Water. They would have to agree a truly progressive programme for government.
"Essentially they would need to cease being conservative and start being progressive, which I can't see them doing," the Sinn Féin source added.
Mr Martin has said there is no possibility of his party forming a post-election coalition with what he described as a "mafia-like" Sinn Féin.
However, a number of his frontbench TDs have been less consistent in their rejection of Mr Adams' party.
Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuiv has said he doesn't understand the obsession with Sinn Féin as they are "just another political party".
Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness previously said policy would not be a concern as they could "compromise" on that if voters made a coalition feasible.
Asked yesterday how Fianna Fáil would respond to the idea of coalition talks with Sinn Féin, the party's environment spokesperson Barry Cowen replied: "Gerry can do business with who he likes - but I certainly won't be doing business with him."
In a rare sign of discord, several Sinn Féin figures moved to distance themselves from the idea of coalition with Fianna Fáil.
One senior TD insisted that Fianna Fáil remains "toxic" in the eyes of voters and that he would not support a scenario whereby the two parties did business.
"Even if we were the biggest party, entertaining the idea of going into government with Fianna Fáil would cause uproar among our members," said the deputy.
A second TD agreed, insisting that Sinn Féin would not be able to thrash out an acceptable programme for government with Fianna Fáil.
"Gerry should have ruled it out entirely because there is no way on earth I would support the notion of a Fianna Fáil/Sinn Féin coalition," he told the Irish Independent.