FG leader denies he had SF sounded out


SARGENT CLAIMS:FINE GAEL and the Green Party clashed yesterday over a claim that Enda Kenny asked Trevor Sargent to sound out Sinn Féin support for a rainbow coalition in 2007.

A dispute on the matter escalated yesterday as both parties flatly contradicted each other’s version of events and made new claims and counterclaims.

Mr Kenny strongly denied he asked Mr Sargent, the former Green Party leader, to act as a conduit to Sinn Féin. Mr Sargent stood over his assertion, saying that his party colleague Paul Gogarty was present when he received the call.

Green Party leader John Gormley said yesterday Mr Kenny’s phone call was one of three approaches made by Fine Gael to the Greens to act as “emissaries” or “messenger boys”.

Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan, alleged to have made one of the approaches, last night said the Greens were “trying to rewrite history” in a desperate and despicable fashion. Mr Kenny yesterday described the claims as “absurd”.

“If I wanted to contact Sinn Féin I would speak to them myself. It was never my intention to use, and I would never use, the Green Party as a conduit to somebody else,” he said at a Fine Gael press conference.

“If I had been prepared to do business with Sinn Féin after the last election I would have been taoiseach for the past two years.”

Speaking at the Green Party’s final press conference before the elections, Mr Sargent said tha during a short “matter-of-fact” telephone call after the election, he told the Fine Gael leader that he needed the support of the four Sinn Féin TDs.

“I said that if you want to be taoiseach you don’t have a choice. It was then that he [Mr Kenny] said could you give them [Sinn Féin] a nod or ask them a question would they be prepared to vote for him as taoiseach. I said, ‘That is a very unusual thing. You have a phone and a voice. Why don’t you ask your own questions?’”

He added: “The only way I can rationalise it is that Enda Kenny had some experience in the ballrooms of romance in Mayo when he asked a fellow to ask your sister ‘Will she got out with me?’.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams pointedly refused to be drawn into the spat.

Mr Sargent said yesterday that despite his refusal to act as a conduit, he mentioned the approach to Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin who “dismissed it as a ridiculous scenario”.

Asked why he had not relayed Mr Ó Caoláin’s response back to Fine Gael, Mr Sargent said Mr Kenny should have known Sinn Féin would not give its support on a “nod and a wink”.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that Fine Gael’s inconsistent attitude to Sinn Féin showed it would do anything to gain power.