Bertie Ahern has said he can't envisage a situation where Sinn Féin would be in coalition with Fianna Fáil. His minister for foreign affairs, Dermot Ahern, can.
This folks shows the start of the next general election. Bertie is in a bit of a pickle, he has to attack the Shinners and he has to discredit them but all tactics are fraught with danger. If he lets McDowell off the leash it would prove disastrous, as the last election in the 26 counties showed. If he himself challenges Sinn Féin he risks sending droves of Fianna Fáil voters over to Sinn Féin.
He can't challenge them on Republican credentials because Fianna Fáil doesn't have any, they are tried and tested partionists that masquerade as republicans.
I have met a lot of young Fianna Fáilers through my Student Union hat and many have told me they would join and vote Sinn Féin if the issue of the IRA was sorted out.
Adding to Bertie’s woe is the Rossport five disaster, a situation not helped by the fact that Mayo is shaky enough for Fiona Fail after the Cooper-Flynn incident. He then has the fact that the PD policies are not popular within his own party or the country at large. The Rip-Off-Ireland RTÉ show is a clear indication of the countries disaffection with centre-right politics.
Try as Bertie may to pretend that Fianna Fáil won't do a deal with Sinn Féin when the time comes, I just don't believe him.