Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil edge towards deal

It is almost a century since Fianna Fáil was founded as the result of a bitter split with Sinn Féin, and both sides have taken up diametrically opposing stances throughout the course of their subsequent histories.

However, there are now increasing indications that the rivalries could be finally set apart aside after the next Irish general election through the creation of a new coalition arrangement between the two groups.

A weekend poll published in the Sunday Independent demonstrated there would be a significant level of public support for such an outcome as well confirming the continuing strength of Sinn Féin’s position.

There is no serious prospect of the republican party securing an overall majority so the negotiations after the election, which needs to take place by March, 2025, could be based on a number of different permutations involving Sinn Féin, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the smaller Dáil Éireann groupings.

It is still possible that the present Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Green pact could retain power but the most secure government would plainly be one led by the largest party, which is almost certain to be Sinn Féin.

An alliance between the former acrimonious rivals of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil would have been unthinkable before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement but the wider progress which made since then has taken us into an entirely different climate.

Although it must always be stressed that every murder during the Troubles, whether perpetrated by republicans, loyalists or the forces of the state, was not just wrong but cruel, evil and only capable of causing grief and hatred across the board, we have now thankfully been in a new dispensation for over a quarter of a century.

Sinn Féin has played an essential role in the Stormont devolved structures throughout that period, and there is every reason to believe that it will soon be given the democratic mandate to take on similar responsibilities in Dublin.

Some observers previously felt that an understanding between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was unthinkable but the old certainties have long since been swept away by the changing times and the result was a generally well received rotation of the taoiseach’s office between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar.

While not everyone in Fianna Fáil, perhaps notably including Mr Martin, will be happy with the prospects which lie ahead, it is the electorate which will decide the balance of the next administration.