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Fianna Fail ‘could enter coalition with Fine Gael – but only as senior party’

Fianna Fail has signalled it could hammer out a coalition deal with Fine Gael – but only as the senior party.

Frontbencher Niall Collins, Fianna Fail’s justice spokesman, said if his party was the largest after the general election, he would have no problem doing a deal with their old adversaries.

While such a scenario is unlikely, based on latest opinion polls, the remarks could be seen as a softening in relations between the traditionally main parties, bitter rivals since the foundation of the State.

“If we’re the biggest party, if they (Fine Gael) want to come in and prop us up, that’s a different kettle of fish… something I wouldn’t have a problem with,” said Mr Collins.

But he ruled out going into power as a junior coalition partner.

“We are not going to prop up Enda Kenny or Fine Gael,” he said.

“We are running 71 candidates. We aim to be the lead party. We are not going to be one leg of a three-legged stool.”

Mr Collins’ remarks come after his party leader Micheal Martin refused to rule out a so-called “grand coalition” in the event of a hung parliament, saying Fianna Fail would act in the national interest.

The party’s support rose slightly in the latest opinion poll, but they remain far behind Fine Gael in popular support.

Both Fine Gael and Labour dropped support slightly, according to the first opinion poll since the General Election campaign started.

The outgoing senior coalition partner is on 30% when voters were asked about their first preference – down slightly from 31% on the last survey by pollster Red C.

Their junior partners Labour dropped two points – and out of double figures – to 8%.

Both falls are within the margin of error in the poll, which was taken between last Thursday and Monday.

Fianna Fail are up one percentage point to 18% while Sinn Fein remain unchanged since the last survey by the same pollsters on 17%.

Independent candidates and other parties are on 25%, with parties such as the AAA-PBP on 4%, Renua on 2% and the Independent Alliance on 4% – all up slightly.

The Social Democrats attracted 3% first preferences while the Green Party are on 2%, unchanged.

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When asked what the shape of the next government should look like, some 44% of voters backed a continuation of the current coalition in power, either on their own or with the support of Independents.

Just over half of all voters (51%) believe that candidate and party posters should be banned during general elections.

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