FG would talk to Greens about Nice


The Fine Gael leader has said he would be prepared to negotiate with the Green Party on changes to the Nice Treaty to pave the way for a coalition government.

Mr Michael Noonan said yesterday his first choice of coalition partner would be the Labour Party. Such a coalition was possible, he pointed out, if both parties made a combined gain of seven seats.

However, if they did not make sufficient gains in the general election, he said, he would be prepared to have discussions with the Green Party.

"If we fall short of an overall majority on a policy basis I am prepared to take up discussions with the Greens and the PDs," he said on RTE News. He said he would push for changes in the Nice Treaty.

"I think that at a minimum we will need a solemn declaration from the Council of Ministers giving assurances that there is nothing in the Treaty of Nice which obliges Ireland to participate in a European army. So I don't have dissimilar views from Trevor Sargent."

Mr Noonan's remarks came after the Green Party leader said his party would not participate in a rainbow coalition after the next general election unless changes were made to the Nice Treaty on European integration.

Mr Sargent told The Irish Times it was not acceptable to his party that the same poll be run twice. "There would have to be a protocol attached, dealing at least with neutrality. That would have to be clarified," he said yesterday. He could not see the Greens going into coalition with Fianna Fáil "the way things are working at the moment".

"I don't see us going into coalition with the other parties as things stand either because there hasn't been any discussion," he said. "I do think we are fighting the election as a party looking to strengthen our hand, and then the party will decide whether we can go into coalition on the basis of the demands we would have."