The bookies have slashed the odds on Sinn Féin forming part of the next government in Dublin weeks after prominent party figures in Derry strongly suggested that that was the party’s ambition in the short to medium term.
The odds on a Fianna Fáil/Sinn Féin coalition government have been shortened to just 4/1.
Irish bookmaker Paddy Power believes such a government is now as likely as an arrangement between Fine Gael and an assortment of Independent TDs at Leinster House.
Both Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney and Sinn Féin TD for Cork South-Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, speaking in Derry recently, strongly hinted that the party would be seeking to enter a coalition government in the south after the next election.
Mr. McCartney, however, said such a move would need to be mandated at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in the RDS in Dublin in November.
He said: “Sinn Féin is holding this government to account and we will contest any future general election seeking a mandate to be in government and implement policies to resolve these crises.
“All of these issues will be debated at our upcoming Ard Fheis which will be held in the RDS in Dublin on Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18.”
And speaking at the Gasyard Féile last month Mr. Ó Laoghaire also suggested entering government in Dublin would allow Sinn Féin to advance its strategy for uniting the country.
He indicated that as part of a future government in the south Sinn Féin “would be seeking to take concrete steps, producing a Green Paper on Irish unity that would maximise cross-border cooperation, that would, in short, be an advocate for Irish unity, rather than simply having it as a stated policy preference, that would actively pursue Irish unity”.
There has previously been considerable resistance within Sinn Féin against the notion of entering a coalition government in the south with either of the ‘civil war’ parties, and vice-versa.
At the party’s Ard Fheis in Derry two years ago, for example, delegates unanimously ruled out entering a coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. However, following the Irish General election last year, which saw both Sinn Féin (23 seats) eclipse the Labour Party (seven seats) as the third force in Irish politics in the south, and Fianna Fáil (44 seats) recover from its electoral collapse of 2011, the prospect of a deal between the two parties is now seen as increasingly likely.