Michael Martin, after the recent opinion polls, has restated his position that he will not enter coalition government with Sinn Fein. Last week Mr Martin sent out very conflicting signals by first saying he wouldn't rule anything out and then on the other hand saying they weren't compatible economically.
Ok, this sort of talk is now getting tedious. If the people decide that there is coalition government then there will be coalition government. After that it's simply a matter of numbers, policy is the very last consideration.
If we look back on previous coalition governments you can see just that when Clann na Poblachta shared power with Fine Gael or when Dessie O'Malley led the PD's into government with Charlie Haughey's Fianna Fail (A party he set up after Haughey had him expelled from Fianna Fail).
Eamonn O'Cuiv is probably one of the only Fianna Fail TD's I have any time for. From personal experience I have found him a very personable and reasonable man. He was prepared to put his head above the political parapet on several occasions to push Republican agendas.
He has been pushing very hard for Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail to enter coalition saying that they had a shared Republicanism. I'm not sure how true that is for many in Fianna Fail but let's leave that for a minute.
In many ways Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are very similar. I can see many former comrades screaming into their screens as they read that line but it's true. Fianna Fail is after all a dissident party with regards Sinn Fein. DeValera was a former President of Sinn Fein and when he didn't get his way he split and formed Fianna Fail.
They shared the same side during the Civil War and both would be very opposed to Fine Gael.
They are both, at heart, populist parties. Sinn Fein has as part of its constitution the implementation of a 32 County Socialist Republic yet Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein had no issue with setting up PPP's and PFI's in education.
Sinn Fein's repeated attacks upon the Church are also blatant populism. Fianna Fail has always been a populist party because their entire raison d’être is power, getting power, using power and keeping power.
In that sense this entire talk about incompatible economic policies is a red hearing. Both parties would compromise on principals if it meant getting into government.
That last comment is possibly unfair as I know a great many Sinn Fein members who would be very annoyed if Sinn Fein entered government with Fianna Fail. I hope when the time comes they are able to convince the Ard Chomhairle not to but on past experience what the Ard Chomhairle wants it gets.
I fear that should Sinn Fein enter coalition with Fianna Fail or Fine Gael they will be the mudguard for the failed politics of the civil war parties.
That said despite Michael Martin's stated objections it is only a matter of time before Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail enter coalition government together.