“I have no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government.”

AFTER months of denials that FG would contemplate a coalition, here’s an interesting and telling story breaking today in Dublin…

A Fine Gael minister has denied he was slapped down after declaring no objection to Sinn Féin in government, adding that many of his party colleagues share his view.

Jim Daly said he spent two hours with Leo Varadkar on Wednesday and the purported controversy over his comments that Sinn Féin’s mandate was legitimate was never raised once by the Taoiseach.

In an interview with Hot Press magazine the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People said: “I have no ideological objection to Sinn Féin being part of a government.”

The interview prompted Mr Varadkar’s spokesman to deem the comments inappropriate and “absolutely” rule out any coalition or confidence-and-supply deal between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.

But Mr Daly rejected any suggestion he was slapped down, saying the issue wasn’t even mentioned during his lengthy meeting with Mr Varadkar.

“It certainly wasn’t raised as an issue, good, bad or indifferent,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

Mr Daly added that he doesn’t speak for the government, and made his remarks about Sinn Féin during an interview about his personal life and personal views.

“But I would also make the point that a lot of my colleagues would share the view that I have,”

Of course he cites the residual differences between the two parties, but it is a long way from the insistence of FG’s press operation last autumn that Fianna Fáil would be first to weaken. It doesn’t quite look like that now…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty