Now Kenny leaves door open for FF/FG 'grand coalition' as campaign hots up
The prospect of a Fine Gael/Fianna Fail government being formed has moved a step closer after Taoiseach Enda Kenny repeatedly refused to rule out doing business with Micheal Martin.
Despite accusing Mr Martin of "being able to give it but not take it", the Fine Gael leader clearly left the door open to serving as Taoiseach in a coalition that involved Fianna Fail.
During a series of carefully worded responses, Mr Kenny would only go as far as to say his "proposition" to voters is for the return of the Fine Gael and Labour coalition.
He said he does not "contemplate" doing business with Fianna Fail - but declined to rule out such a scenario after the General Election.
"I respectfully ask the people to listen to the proposition that we put forward and to make their decision. I have every confidence that they will," Mr Kenny said at the launch of the Fine Gael election manifesto.
Senior Fine Gael sources last night described the prospect of a FG/FF government as "unlikely" but conceded that Mr Kenny had not closed the door on it.
"In many ways, the question would be whether Fianna Fail could get such a proposition through their ard fheis and there are doubts surrounding that," said a party strategist.
But the decision by Mr Kenny to leave the door open to a deal with Fianna Fail sparked a terse response from Tanaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton.
"I think they need to be confronted with their legacy and why people don't trust them to be back in Government," she said.
The comments came as a Red C opinion poll for the Sunday Business Post showed falls in support for Fine Gael and Labour in comparison for increases for Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein.
With Fine Gael on 28pc and Fianna Fail on 18pc, a grand coalition involving the two parties now appears the most plausible option.
The issue of potential coalitions will feature prominently this evening during the seven -way leaders' debate on RTE.
And during the party's manifesto launch yesterday, Mr Kenny was forced to deny that he was outperformed during last week's TV3 debate by Mr Martin.
"It's not a case of being bested by anyone else as you say," he said, adding that he has previously been accused of "running away" from debates.
He also denied he was engaging in negative campaigning against Mr Martin when he said the Fianna Fail leader was able to give criticism, but not take it.
Mr Kenny said the current group of Fianna Fail politicians "don't deserve to be in government" because they "haven't earned their stripes".
"We have every legitimate right to put out during the general election, from a political perspective the gross and abject contempt which the Fianna Fail party had for the people of this country," he said.