SF FOR COALITION - AHERN
Irelands new foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern tonight said
he looked forward to the day when Sinn Fein is in government in
both parts of Ireland.
Mr Ahern, speaking after his first official meeting with
Britain's Direct Ruler in the North, Paul Murphy, went further
than any other Irish Cabinet minister to date, saying that Sinn
Fein would one day be in government in Dublin and Belfast.
Any suggestion of republicans gaining power has remained
virtually taboo in the South, where Sinn Fein has long suffered
censorship, marginalisation and demonisation.
Ahern's party, Fianna Fail, has refused to accept Sinn Fein as a
Mr Ahern said: Obviously circumstances will change, there will
come a time I envisage where Sinn Fein will be in government in
the republic as they will be in the north and I hope that
happens in the future.
Mr Ahern said he believed it was only a matter of time before
this takes place.
But until such time as the IRA demonstrably show that they have
put down arms forever and a day there cannot be two armies.
Thats the reality and its the same in the north as it is in
Mr Ahern was responding to journalists' questions about the
consequences of full and conclusive weapons decommissioning by
It is a long-standing ambition of Sinn Fein to enter government
in both the 26 Counties and the Six Counties as part of its
continuing move into mainstream politics.
Unionist hardliners, fearing that eventuality, have made efforts
to undermine the Ministerial power which would be enjoyed by
Sinn Fein in any restored power-sharing administration in the
Ahern's comments will be seen as a move to broach the
possibility a Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein coalition, and will be a
warning to the small right-wing Progressive Democrats, led by
Mary Harney, which has claimed a share of power with Fianna Fail
for the past six years.
Long dismissed as insignificant, Sinn Fein now ranks equally
with Labour as the third-largest in the South in terms of
popular support. Following the next Dail general election,
expected in 2006, the party is set to hold the balance of power
between the existing coalition government and a 'rainbow'
opposition alternative. Without Sinn Fein support, neither
putative coalition is likely to have sufficient representation
to form a government.
Responding to Ahern's comments, Sinn Féin Assembly group leader
Conor Murphy said he was only acknowledging the reality that,
with its increasing electoral mandate, Sinn Féin would serve in
a Dublin government in the future.
"However, any participation by Sinn Féin in a coalition will
determined by our party membership and by whether such a course
would best advance our agenda of political, constitutional and
social change," he added.