Sinn Fein's U-turn over talks on new government in Republic
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said his party would be willing to enter into talks about forming the next Irish Government - despite repeatedly ruling it out since the election.
Mr Adams has left himself open to accusations of hypocrisy after now admitting he would consider devising a Programme for Government with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.
Throughout the general election campaign, senior Sinn Fein figures insisted they would not do business with either of the two main parties.
On several occasions during the impasse Mr Adams and his colleagues said they do not have the "mandate" or the "numbers" to get into government.
And during his own ard fheis speech on Saturday night, the Louth TD attacked Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin for potentially facilitating a Fine Gael-led administration.
"He (Mr Martin) also said he would not put Enda Kenny back into government," Mr Adams said. "But putting Fine Gael back into power is exactly what he is negotiating. That's not in the national interest," he added.
But in an extraordinary U-turn, Mr Adams yesterday said his party would consider devising a Programme for Government with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail. He said such a plan, if agreed, would be sent back to the Sinn Fein ard fheis for approval.
"Would we talk to them? The answer to that question is 'yes'," he told RTE's The Week in Politics. "If in the course of all of that, although it would be very, very challenging, we came up with a Programme for Government which did the business as far as we were concerned, our leadership would consider that and yes, if we thought that was an advance and would help to deal with these issues we have just talked about, including in the centenary year the issue of Irish unity, of course we would have to bring that back to an ard fheis."
Mr Adams said it was not his preference to return either party to power, but a government was urgently required to address problems such as homelessness.
Meanwhile, Mr Adams declined to say how long he will remain on as Sinn Fein leader.
But he has indicated he will lead the party into the next general election, if one is held within the next two to three years.
Sinn Fein sources have said Mr Adams is devising his own "exit strategy" and that there is little appetite at the moment for a change of leadership.