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Monday, December 08 2008

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Rebel TD threatens to pull the plug on Ahern

McDaid furious over treatment by party during election

Jim McDaid and partner Siobhan O'Donnell with baby son Neal. Mr McDaid is adamant FF should not take him for granted.

Jim McDaid and partner Siobhan O'Donnell with baby son Neal. Mr McDaid is adamant FF should not take him for granted.

By Anita Guidera and Gene McKenna

Friday June 01 2007

MAVERICK Fianna Fail TD Jim McDaid last night threatened to withdraw support from any new government formed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The likely make-up of the new coalition will leave the proposed alliance of Fianna Fail, Progressive Democrats and Independents with a wafer-thin majority.

The loss of even a single vote, particularly when the Dail is deciding on crunch issues, could lead to the Government suffering an embarrassing defeat.

Dr McDaid claimed his party had given him no support during the election, and added: "They gave me nothing and I owe them nothing."

Although returned in Donegal North East, Dr McDaid said: "Fianna Fail gave me no support whatever. I was treated as an independent deputy and everyone knows that."

The Donegal TD's outburst will give Mr Ahern a new headache as he tries to form a stable government for the next five years.

Yesterday, Fianna Fail opened channels of communication with the Green Party, who Mr Ahern last week named as his second choice for a coalition.

The move to open talks with the Greens may indicate that Mr Ahern is not satisfied that his first choice of a coalition with the PDs and Independents will give him a sufficiently comfortable majority to last a full term.

So Fianna Fail, with 78 seats of its own, is seeking an insurance policy in testing the waters with the six Green TDs on what their policy demands might be.

It also opens up the possibility that Mr Ahern may try to tie all three groups - the Greens, the two PDs and Independents - into a broader coalition to ensure his next government can survive close votes.

Mr Ahern adopted a strong line on reports that one of the Independents - Finian McGrath - had said the continued use of Shannon airport by the US military would be a "major issue" for him in any negotiations on forming a new Government.

Mr McGrath and fellow-Independent Tony Gregory were signatories to a pledge, before the election, not to support any Government which allowed the US military to use Shannon.

But the Taoiseach said in Berlin that he would not be budging on the Government's position on the Shannon issue.

In response, Mr McGrath pulled back and indicated Shannon was not a deal-breaker for him.

"It's on the table for negotiations. I will be pushing for this because of my total opposition to the war in Iraq. It's not going to be a crunch issue," he said.

As behind-the-scenes moves continued to form a government by the Dail's resumption date of June 14, Fianna Fail confirmed contact had been made with the Greens.

It said this was to have "an early exchange of policy position papers and documents with a view to establishing the extent to which our respective policy approaches have a basis for further discussion".

Earlier yesterday, the Greens said they had met with Fine Gael and Labour and were awaiting a response on the viability of an alternative government.

Elimination

The party said leader Trevor Sargent had spoken with Enda Kenny on several occasions recently and had also sought a meeting with Labour leader Pat Rabbitte.

Meanwhile, Dr McDaid said he would be meeting his election workers in the coming days to decide the way forward.

The Letterkenny-based GP was elected on the seventh count in a nail-biting count in Donegal North East after the shock elimination of his running mate, outgoing TD Cecelia Keaveney.

Newly-returned Niall Blaney, the party's third candidate in the three-seater constituency, was also elected for Fianna Fail after a strong challenge from Sinn Fein's Padraig MacLochlainn.

But after initial euphoria, Dr McDaid insisted his re-election had been achieved without any help from party headquarters.

"It was a bruising contest and a nightmare. Fianna Fail gave me no support whatever and I was treated as an independent deputy and everyone knows that."

The controversial decision by party headquarters to run Mr Blaney and Inishowen-based Ms Keaveney without holding a selection convention incurred the wrath of the local organisation in Letterkenny, which feared the largest urban centre in the constituency would be left without representation.

- Anita Guidera and Gene McKenna

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