Irish Examiner

SF ‘could hold balance of power’

14 August 2004
By Paul O’Brien

SINN FÉIN could hold the balance of power after the next general election, admits Fianna Fáil backbench TD Conor Lenihan.
The question now, he said, was in what circumstances the party would be admitted to power.

Mr Lenihan, tipped to win a junior ministerial portfolio in Bertie Ahern’s imminent Cabinet reshuffle, added that the period of “scaremongering about Sinn Féin is over. I don’t think it’s positive for Fianna Fáil or any other establishment-minded parties to be seen, symbolically or otherwise, to be having a go at Sinn Féin; I think that only adds to their appeal.

“And I also feel it belies the reality that after the local and European elections, one thing you can be certain about is that Sinn Féin have the potential to hold the balance of power after the next general election,” he said.

“That’s something people have to focus on now: how and in what circumstance will they be admitted to power in the Republic.”

But he stressed that Sinn Féin still did not appear to have a “highly developed set of economic goals”.

“I think that until they have that sort of platform, it’s virtually impossible to analyse whether they’d be a force for good or a force for evil in terms of the management of the economy.

“And I think that before they can go into government, they still have acts of completion and things to finish with regard to the peace process, and until they honour those obligations, they won’t be allowed into government by any of the parties.”

But Mr Lenihan, speaking in an interview with Hot Press magazine, conceded that there were lessons to be learned from the way Sinn Féin worked in disadvantaged communities.

“The parties of the centre in Ireland - broadly encompassing Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour - have become somewhat out of touch with life as it’s lived in disadvantaged areas.

“And I think that we ignore those constituencies at our peril.”

Sinn Fein general secretary Robbie Smith last night said that while many of Mr Lenihan’s comments were positive, his criticism of the party’s economic policies “were nonsense”.

“We’re the only party that makes a budget submission, and we have well-thought out policies on tax reform, health, transport and all the major areas.”

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