Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has rebuffed a party colleague for suggesting the party could enter a coalition government alongside Sinn Féin.
The leader of the second-largest party in the 26 Counties told Irish radio ``Michael Ring is our spokesman on social, community and family affairs. He does not speak for the Fine Gael party in relation to Sinn Féin.''
Mr Kenny said he had ``deep concern'' about Sinn Féin's funding and suggested the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) should be brought in to investigate allegations by the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, that the party has benefited from organised crime in the 26 Counties.
Sinn Féin has angrily refuted the allegations, publishing accounts for its Dublin office.
The party has said the allegations are linked to June's local and European elections, when the party is poised to make major gains at the expense of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
Fine Gael is understood to be pleading with former party leader John Bruton to contest the European elections in a bid to fend off the challenge of Sinn Féin's Marylou McDonald, who could take the Fine Gael seat in the Dublin constituency.
The Fine Gael leader's call to bring in CAB was sharply criticised last night by the Sinn Féin deputy for Cavan/Monaghan, Mr Caoimhghin O Caolain, who demanded Mr Kenny produce evidence to back up his charge.
``Enda Kenny is repeating the false allegations against Sinn Féin repeatedly made by Mr McDowell,'' he said.
The Fine Gael leader's refusal to consider coalition with Sinn Féin had provoked ``amusement'' amongst Sinn Féin supporters, said Mr O Caolain.
``It merely points to the failure of Fine Gael, as the so-called main opposition party, to provide any real alternative to the conservative policies of the Fianna Fail/PD government.''
``As the most rapidly growing party in Ireland the last thing Sinn Féin is considering is jumping aboard the floundering ship of Fine Gael. Enda Kenny's remarks show that the EU and Local election campaigns have well and truly begun. And Sinn Féin goes into them confident of major gains.''