Fianna Fáil again rejects talk of a coalition with Sinn Féin
FIANNA Fáil has again insisted that it will not countenance a coalition government with Sinn Féin in the Republic because the parties' policies differ.
With increased prospects for a southern general election in the coming months, there has been growing speculation about the potential for a deal between Micheál Martin's party and Sinn Féin.
But while Mr Martin has been adamant that Fianna Fáil will not partner Sinn Féin in government, some of his party's TDs have been less categorical.
Cork East TD Kevin O'Keeffe is among those who have yet to rule out entering a coalition with Gerry Adams's party.
Earlier this month, he said "anything is possible" and "everything is up for negotiation" when it comes to the formation of the next government.
As the debate continued to intensify, Fine Gael junior minister Patrick O'Donovan claimed "ordinary, decent Fianna Fáil voters" were alarmed by recent reports linking his main political rivals to a coalition deal with Sinn Féin.
The Limerick TD said he was concerned by what he has described as a "rush" within political circles to "find Sinn Féin respectable".
He told the Irish Independent that he and others within Fine Gael perceive Sinn Féin as a party which espouses "back of the fag box economics".
Mr O'Donovan said Fianna Fáil voters are worried about recent remarks made by senior front bench figures.
"The people I have met during the summer, at agricultural shows and other events – the farmers and fishermen and ordinary decent Fianna Fail people – this is something has really concerned them," he said
"It has worried Fianna Fáil people who don't want to have any truck with Sinn Féin."
The Fine Gael minister said before Sinn Féin could be considered as a potential party in government, it needed to deal with issues of the past. However, when citing violent incidents from the republican movement's past, the Limerick TD included the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, which were perpetrated by loyalists.
Fianna Fáil responded by insisting that leader Micheál Martin has stated very clearly that his party will not go into coalition with Sinn Féin due to differences on "economic and business policies".
"The bottom line is that we do not trust them," a party spokesman said.
"Their leader has never admitted that he was a member of the IRA - we had the appalling vista of kangaroo courts being used to deal with child sex abuse cases - decent republicans pay their taxes and report all cases of child sex abuse to the Gardaí or PSNI."
Sinn Féin branded Mr O'Donovan's intervention "bizarre".
"Even in the context of the current partnership in the Dáil where Fianna Fáil support a Fine Gael government, it is bizarre that a Fine Gael junior minister seeks to speak on behalf of Fianna Fáil," a Sinn Féin spokesman said.
"Sinn Féin's position is clear – we want to be in government, north and south, to deliver real change in citizens' lives, meet the challenge of Brexit, and to progress Irish unity."