Bertie Ahern could be returned as 26-County Taoiseach for a further five years, according to the latest polls, but only if he finds a new coalition partner.

A surprise increase of more than a third in the Fianna Fail core vote in Dublin has underpinned the surge for Ahern’s party, according to the latest opinion poll.

While the main opposition parties have suggested the poll is a ‘blip’, other surveys published at the weekend indicate a smaller swing back to Fianna Fail. Despite widespread dissatisfaction with the state of public services, commentators have said it may be a case of undecided voters plumping for the ‘devil you know’.

The adjusted figures for party support are: Fianna Fail 41 per cent (up five points); Fine Gael 27 per cent (down one point); Labour 10 per cent (down three points); Sinn Féin 9 per cent (down one point); Greens 6 per cent (up one point); PDs 2 per cent (no change); and Independents/others 5 per cent (down one point).

With the election only days away, it is certain that the result will be a hung parliament, with considerable uncertainty over which combination of parties can be put together to form a new government.

With Labour leader Pat Rabitte consistently denying he would go into government with Fianna Fail, Sinn Féin could be the party’s only option to secure a majority in the Dail.

However, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has also insisted that Fianna Fail will not make a post-election deal with Sinn Féin.

A strong performance by Ahern in a television debate with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is credited with the sudden rise in Fianna Fail support, which was most dramatic in the nation’s capital.

The figures for Dublin were: Fianna Fail 38 per cent (up 10 percentage points), Fine Gael 13 per cent (down two points), Labour 10 per cent (down five points), Sinn Féin 11 per cent (no change), Greens 9 per cent (up three points), PDs 1 per cent (no change), Independents/Others 6 per cent (down three points) and Undecided voters 15 per cent (no change).

Sinn Féin’s poll standings have been consistently buoyant, and the party’s move into third place in Dublin is seen as particularly significant. Sinn Féin is targeting key seats in the city and is now in the running for a seat in a half-dozen constituencies.

Sinn Féin has said it does not believe assertions by Fianna Fail and others that they would not go into government with the party after the election.

MEP and candidate in Dublin Central Mary Lou McDonald said she would “urge people to take with a grain of salt pronouncements from any party that they would rule anybody out”.

“Frankly I do not accept the protestations of some parties that they simply will not look at Sinn Féin,” she said.

“After the event when the people have made their views known, I think every party at that stage will assess their position. In the run-up to polling day, obviously different people will say different things for all sorts of motives and I am not going to speculate why they might do that,” she said.

Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin would be prepared to go into government with any party it could agree a programme for government with. “It is not about political ego, not about personalities, not about game playing, but about whether we could agree a programme for government that would deliver in the key areas. Whether it could deliver on public services, on the peace process, that would be the benchmark, the yardstick for Sinn Féin,” she said.

However, she said that the Progressive Democrats “would obviously cause great concern for us”.

In its manifesto published last week, Sinn Féin also said it would draw up a plan leading towards Irish unity within a year of being in government in Dublin.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said Irish reunification remains one of the party’s three main priorities.

And its manifesto also confirmed there would be a referendum on a united Ireland “to be held simultaneously, north and south.”

At a press conference launching the manifesto, Mr Adams reiterated his line that the party is now in government in the North “and we’re ready for government in the south.

“We are seeking a mandate for government here (but) we are not interested in being in government for the sake of it. Our priorities are a strong and vibrant economy, strong public services and Irish re-unification,” he said.

The party said it would complete a Green Paper on Irish Unity within one year, identifying steps and measures to promote and assist a successful transition to a United Ireland.

Recalling the vision of the 1916 Easter Proclamation, Mr Adams said Sinn Féin was committed to A United Ireland where all the people of our island look forward to a shared and peaceful future and an Ireland of equals where everyone’s rights are guaranteed.

“Ireland has changed greatly over the past decade. The peace process driven by Sinn Féin has delivered changes many never thought possible,” he said.

“The all-Ireland agenda has progressed dramatically in recent years. As a consequence, Ireland is now more peaceful and economically prosperous than ever before. But we still live in a divided Ireland.”


Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has backed a campaign to alter the current plans for the M3 motorway, which is under construction close to the archaeologically rich Hill of Tara.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh said that in government Sinn Féin would seek to have the controversial section diverted away from Tara and for the introduction of legislation to stop the sale of important heritage items.

O Snodaigh was speaking at a press conference which announced the party’s proposals on the Environment and Heritage.

“The current Government’s track record on protecting Ireland’s archaeological and architectural heritage is disgraceful,” he said.

“Under the so-called Environment Minister Dick Roche, they have pursued a relentless, no-holds barred campaign of destruction, as they seek to plough roads and motorways through historic sites, allow the sale of priceless historic artefacts, which are rightly the property of the Irish nation, and neglect and let fall into ruin key historic buildings which should be promoted as major tourist attractions.

“They have coupled this with disgraceful campaigns of denigration against concerned citizens and experts alike who point out the folly of government actions.

“Sinn Féin fully supports the upgrading of the country’s road network and believes in the necessity for a modern, efficient transport infrastructure. However this does not have to be done at the cost of the wholesale destruction of the environment or precious heritage.”

“The State has the legal authority to declare an historical site a national monument. It also has the power to issue compulsory purchase orders on lands in certain circumstances. Similar powers should be put in place for historical items such as those about to be sold off.

“In Government Sinn Féin would seek to introduce legislation to prevent this sell-out of our heritage. We are also calling for the area around the GPO/O’Connell Street and Moore Street to become a historical quarter in the run up to the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising with an emphasis on education and tourism.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News