Irish Republican News · October 15, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Furore over FF-SF coalition report

There has been a strong reaction to suggestions of a possible Sinn Féin coalition with Fianna Fail following the next general election.

Earlier this week, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the South, Dermot Ahern, pointed up the possibility that Sinn Féin could soon be in government in both parts of Ireland -- including a Dublin coalition government.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has said if his party held the balance of power in the Dublin parliament, the Sinn Féin membership, rather than the leadership, would determine the issue.

Cork East TD Ned O’Keeffe, a former junior minister, said he backed Dermot Ahern’s view that there would come a time when Sinn Féin would be in government in the 26 Counties with other parties and “conceivably with Fianna Fail”.

Mr O’Keeffe said he recognised Sinn Féin’s growing role in southern society following their impressive performance in last June’s local elections.

“Sinn Féin has a role in a government of the future. We can’t go down the road of being old fashioned and out of date,” Mr O’Keeffe, a public representative for over two decades, said.

He admitted that Fianna Fail had suffered because of Sinn Féin’s growing support in the last election and that the party was doing more work on the ground than many others.

“We have peace in our land and the economy has benefited from the peace. There’s no good burying our head in the sand,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

“We must look ahead and be progressive. We in Fianna Fail have gone into coalition with other parties in the past - the mould has been broken.

“I can look at Sinn Féin here in the [Dail] and identify them clearly with a lot of what we do. They come across as decent reasonable people. They’ve had their difficulties in the past but that’s all behind them and they’re now a progressive constitutional party,” he added.

Mr McGuinness said Sinn Féin would form a government on the island of Ireland “at some stage”.

“We are working for that day,” he said. “I think the remarks by Dermot Ahern are an acknowledgment of that reality and of the tremendous growth of Sinn Féin’s vote from Kerry to Belfast to Cork to Derry.

“If at some stage in the future, as a result of a general election in the South, that we have the required numbers we have made it clear what we intend to do. It will be discussed by our party membership. We will decide in a democratic fashion.”

A Labour Party spokesman said Mr Dermot Ahern’s remarks “would appear to indicate a shift in the Fianna Fail position”. He claimed the remarks suggested that Fianna Fail was now preparing public opinion for an attempt to sell an FF/SF deal because “Fianna Fail now acknowledges that it cannot be re-elected to government depending on the PDs alone”.

Meanwhile, the current junior coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, reacted angrily, claiming Sinn Féin’s policies were “Marxist” and would scare off international corporations. Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain described the PD response as “hysterical”.

The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, insisted that there should be “a very clear space” between the end of the IRA and the acceptance of Sinn Féin as a party of government in the South.

Asked could he see Fine Gael in government with Sinn Féin, he said: I don’t see it under any circumstances.” O Caolain said that there was a “coalition of the confused” in the Dublin parliament but that Mr Kenny was “permanently confused”.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News