FF has bumpy record on power sharing


The deteriorating relationship between Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats over Mr Ray Burke is only the latest in a series of incidents that have dogged Fianna Fail and its minority partners in coalition governments.

On two occasions - when Mr Albert Reynolds was in government with the Progressive Democrats and subsequently with the Labour Party - the breakdown of trust has been sufficient to cause the coalitions to implode.

As he ran for the Presidency in 1990, the Fianna Fail candidate and Tanaiste, Mr Brian Lenihan, got himself into a tangle over his previous dealings with Aras an Uachtarain.

He denied making telephone calls to President Hillery during an earlier political crisis, but a taped recording of an interview was revealed in which he boasted of making the calls.

The Progressive Democrats, then in coalition with Mr Charles Haughey's Fianna Fail, threatened not to support the Government in a confidence vote. The then PD leader, Mr Des O'Malley, met Mr Haughey, who agreed to telephone Mr Lenihan and tell him he must resign as Tanaiste. Mr Lenihan refused to quit, and Mr Haughey fired him.

The next incident was in November 1991 when Mr Haughey proposed to appoint Dr Jim McDaid as Minister for Defence in the Fianna Fail/ Progressive Democrats coalition.

The Donegal deputy was accused of links to Mr James Pius Clarke, whose extradition to Northern Ireland had been sought in the previous year to face a charge of attempted murder of a UDR man. Dr McDaid was photographed apparently celebrating Mr Clarke's release after a hearing at the Four Courts. After stormy Dail exchanges, Mr Haughey met Mr O'Malley, who said he could not support the appointment. Dr McDaid withdrew. In January 1992, ail and the Progressive Democrats were in power, former Fianna Fail Justice Minister Mr Sean Doherty, a former Fianna Fail Justice Minister, declared that Mr Haughey had known the details of the tapping of two journalists' telephones 10 years earlier. At a press conference, Mr Doherty repeated his claim and gave details of the tapping.

The PDs decided almost immediately that Mr Haughey would have to resign as Taoiseach or they would leave Government. ail friends Haughey would have to quit, or there would be a general election. After a meeting with Mr O'Malley two days later, Mr Haughey resigned.

Mr Albert Reynolds took over leadership of the Fianna Fail/PD coalition at a time when his long-standing antagonism towards the PDs was due to come to a head at the beef tribunal. In 1992, he and Mr O'Malley had conflicting views of the State's beef export insurance scheme. On oath at the tribunal, Mr O'Malley said Mr Reynolds had been "grossly unwise, reckless and foolish" in the way he had operated the scheme. Mr Reynolds said Mr O'Malley's account of events was "dishonest".

The PDs pulled out of government, forcing a general election. Mr Reynolds ail to its worst result for sixty 60 years, but stayed on as Taoiseach by forming a coalition with Labour. In 1994, during the Labour/ Fianna Fail coalition, a row blew up about the appointment of the Attorney General, Mr Harry Whelehan, as President of the High Court. An administrative mess in the Attorney General's office had been blamed for the failure of the State to extradite Brendan Smyth, the paedophile priest, to Northern Ireland. Labour did not want Mr Whelehan appointed, but indicated that profuse apologies from Mr Reynolds to the nation, and an admission that the appointment was wrong, might save the day. Mr Reynolds and the Labour leader, Mr Dick Spring, appeared to reach a compromise, but as another mishandled extradition case emerged, Mr Spring and other Labour Ministers went to see the Taoiseach.

??? i Quinn was reported to have said. Mr Spring watched as Mr Reynolds delivered the required apologies to the Dail, then pulled out of government anyway.