SF a long way from coalition - McGuinness

Sat, Feb 24, 2001, 00:00

Sinn Fein is still a long way from entering government in the Republic, one of its leading members said last night.

Mr Martin McGuinness, who is Education Minister in the North, said he believed the debate on whether Sinn Fein had a place in the Republic's government was premature. He was speaking at the final in UCD of the 41st Irish Times Debating Competition for third-level students.

College teams debated the motion "That this house agrees Sinn Fein has a place in this Republic's government."

Mr McGuinness, who chaired the debate, said: "It's premature to consider this issue because, in order to even consider that prospect, we have to have a number of people elected in the course of the next elections. At the moment we have just one TD. Of course, I think the fact that this debate is taking place tonight clearly shows that there is an expectation in the country that we are going to increase our representation . . . But we are a long way from that at the moment."

Students from Trinity College took the top prizes in the team and individual speaker categories. The winning team was Ms Yvonne Campbell and Ms Brid McGrath, of the TCD Historical Society, and the winner of the individual competition was Ms Aoife Titley, also of the TCD Historical Society. All three had proposed the motion.

The runners-up in the team category were Mr Padraic Lyons and Mr Dean Kelly, of King's Inns. They, too, had proposed the motion.

The runner-up in the individual speaker category was Mr Jim McElroy, of the TCD Historical Society, who spoke against the motion.

The judging panel, chaired by Mr Charles Meenan SC, included Prof Brent Northup, from Carroll College, Montana; Mr Emmet Oliver, Education Correspondent of The Irish Times; Mr Paul McDermott, lecturer at the Law Faculty in UCD; and Ms Mary Finlay SC.