Reclaiming republicanism (for southern votes)…

AHERN plays another classic wheeze, on the face of it. This time, he announces he will never share power with Sinn Fein in a coalition government in the Republic. It’s convenient for Bertie to come down hard on Sinn Fein right now, but maybe it’s aimed at some floating PD voters too? Course it is. This being Bertie, you gotta read the small print. If Ahern sees himself as the man to shunt Sinn Fein off their republican pedestal and reclaim the mantle for constitutional politics (and votes, obviously) he has renewed competition in the form of his PD justice minister, Michael McDowell.The PDs need the public to believe there is a possibility of an FF/SF coalition after the next election, so a recent Economist Intelligence Unit report was very useful. It forced Ahern to rule it out, but because no-one really takes Bertie for granted when he rules something out, McDowell might well have got the better of his boss this time.

Gerry Adams has sought to question the Taoiseach’s republican credentials in a different way, wondering why he doesn’t believe there will be a united Ireland within his lifetime.

One thing is clear – if Fianna Fail does believe it is the true inheritor of modern republicanism, it is under assault on two fronts.

And don’t expect unionists to care too much…