Irish Republican News · June 4, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Coalition talks continue

Sinn Féin has said it will not be willing to support a minority government from the opposition benches amid continuing negotiations over possible coalition partnerships in Dublin.

Members of the 30th Dail are due to select the Taoiseach by next week.

Speaking following a meeting of the party’s four Leinster House deputies, Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin outlined the party’s priorities for potential coalition, including scrapping a proposal for building private hospitals on the grounds of public ones.

He also rejected suggestions that Sinn Féin had no role to play in the formation of government as neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael have said they are considering them as a coalition partner.

“Do you believe those who have made the utterances prior to this general election, ‘never with Sinn Féin’?” he asked. “Never is a long day in politics. We are here to do our business at the gates of Leinster House. If people want to talk to us, we are available to talk to anyone who wants to enter discussions on the points I have already made.”

Mr Ó Caoláin confirmed that no other party had been in contact with it to date, but said that this should not be ruled out.

“We have no doubt that before this whole process is concluded there may well be some contact,” he said.

A spokesman for Fine Gael said efforts to assemble an alternative coalition partnership were continuing and denied the party had held talks with Sinn Féin. The denial came after Independent TD Finian McGrath claimed senior Fine Gael members had spoken with republicans.

Asked by journalists whether the party was prepared to support either Enda Kenny or Bertie Ahern for the position of Taoiseach when parliament resumes next month, Mr O Caolain said it was “a decision we have yet to take”. “We are making no such judgment at this point in time. These are early days.”

When asked about whether his party would lend its support to a minority government short of coalition, he said: “Absolutely not. We would not be interested in supporting a minority government from the opposition benches.”

He said the party was open to talk to “either bloc” but that his party’s support would be dependant on meeting Sinn Féin priorities.

These include the construction of 70,000 social housing units, reductions in class sizes, universal free pre-school education, and a Green Paper on Irish unity.

Speaking about Sinn Féin’s performance in the general election, where the party lost one of its five TDs, Mr Ó Caoláin said the party was “disappointed we did not make the gains which we had hoped for” but pointed out that overall support for Sinn Féin had increased.

Meanwhile, Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil party, five seats short of a majority, has sent a document setting out areas of common interest to the Green Party in an exchange of documents that took place on Friday. The Greens reciprocated with a position paper of their own.

The six-strong Greens have already been consulting and taking soundings among their wider membership and this process will intensify over the weekend.

In any negotiations, Fianna Fáil are likely to seek reassurance that the Greens would be stable coalition partners. Newspapper reports have indicated today that one possible coalition being looked at by Bertie Ahern’s party would include the Greens, the two elected members of the Progressive Democrats, as well as two or three independents.

“Bertie Ahern wants to be looking forward rather than looking over his shoulder all the time,” one Fianna Fáil insider said.

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© 2007 Irish Republican News