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Fianna Fail set to reject Fine Gael's plea to strike power-sharing deal

Published 07/04/2016

Fine Gael leader and caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny formally called on Wednesday evening for a
Fine Gael leader and caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny formally called on Wednesday evening for a "full partnership government"

Ireland's Fianna Fail party is poised to spurn an unprecedented plea from arch-rivals Fine Gael to strike a "historic" power-sharing deal as the country remains without an elected government for more than a month.

Outgoing senior coalition partner Fine Gael, which suffered embarrassing losses in February's general election, is urging its old adversaries to come together to forge a stable administration amid fears for the ongoing economic recovery.

Both parties held meetings of their parliamentary members on Thursday on the prospect of a ground-breaking agreement, which would end more than 90 years of bitter rivalry, borne out of the country's civil war.

Fine Gael, whose leader and caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny formally called on Wednesday evening for a "full partnership government" after a massive voter schism, said the proposal now has overwhelming support from within its own ranks.

After its meeting, party secretary Helen McEntee said: "This is an historic offer, representing seismic change in the political landscape.

"I believe now more than ever we need to put the people first."

Catherine Byrne, Fine Gael's acting chairwoman, said a "partnership government" is the best way to assure stability.

"Fine Gael TDs and Senators overwhelmingly supported a partnership government, as the best way to provide a stable and lasting government to deal with the issues concerning people and the challenges facing the country," she said.

However, trenchant opposition remains within Fianna Fail to doing a deal with the old enemy.

Niall Collins, the party's justice spokesman, said it had sought votes on the basis that it would not support Fine Gael in power.

"My own personal point of view is that we should hold true to that," he said.

"I think to roll over now to enter a grand partnership or coalition with Fine Gael would be a betrayal of that."

John McGuinness was one of the few high-profile Fianna Fail figures to publicly back the idea.

"I have no problem with a partnership government that gives 50-50 to everyone involved," he said.

Bobby Aylward revealed a poll of Fianna Fail supporters in his Carlow-Kilkenny constituency showed 80% of the 200 people who replied opposed keeping Fine Gael in power.

Willie O'Dea, a former Fianna Fail minister, campaigned on the basis of not supporting a Fine Gael minority government.

"The people of this country voted to get rid of the outgoing government; they voted to get rid of Enda Kenny as taoiseach," he said.

On the opposition benches Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said Fine Gael and Fianna Fail had engaged in six weeks of play acting.

"It was always clear from the election results that the only real option was for the two conservative parties to form a government," he said.

"The policies of both parties are entirely compatible. The civil war excuse is bogus."

Mr Adams added: "It will be entirely reprehensible if Fine Gael and Fianna Fail came back next week, having suspended the Dail, and go through the same charade again. That would be unacceptable.

"They should either do a deal or they should admit that there won't be one. It's time they were honest with people."

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