Polls in Republic of Ireland signal prospect of a Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail coalition
The possibility of a Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail Government in the Republic has risen in recent weeks after a series of opinion polls suggested both parties could have the numbers to form an alternative administration.
But within Fianna Fail the issue is highly divisive, with some deputies threatening to vote against such a move. Others, such as John McGuinness and Eamon O Cuiv, have said a coalition should not be ruled out.
Asked yesterday how Fianna Fail would respond to the idea of talks with Sinn Fein, the party's environment spokesman Barry Cowen replied: "Gerry (Adams) can do business with who he likes, but I certainly won't be doing business with him."
Mr Adams' decision to leave the door open to Fianna Fail also appeared to take his own party by surprise.
It went down particularly badly among members of his parliamentary party, who are not known for expressing internal criticism.
In a rare sign of discord, several Sinn Fein figures moved to distance themselves from the idea of a coalition.
One senior TD insisted that Fianna Fail remained "toxic" in the eyes of voters and that he would not support a scenario whereby the two parties did business.
"Even if we are the biggest party, entertaining the idea of going into Government with Fianna Fail would cause uproar among our members," said the deputy.
A second deputy agreed and insisted that Sinn Fein would not be able to thrash out an acceptable programme for government with Fianna Fail.
"Gerry should have ruled it out entirely because there is no way on Earth I would support the notion of a Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein coalition," he said.
A third member of the parliamentary party said Fianna Fail had already ruled out doing business with Sinn Fein and therefore, "the issue does not arise".
And in another development last night, a Sinn Fein source set out a series of criteria Fianna Fail would have to meet before a coalition could be formed.
While insisting that any such coalition was unlikely, the source said Fianna Fail must first agree to two key principles of the Right2Change movement - the abolition of water charges and the local property tax.
The party figure also said Sinn Fein would only do business with Fianna Fail if it was the largest party.