Ireland's prime minister rules out forming coalition government with Sinn Fein

Prime Minister Bertie Ahern rejected the idea of permitting Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army-linked party, into his next coalition government in an unprecedented statement Sunday.

Ahern, who faces re-election in 2007, has previously hedged his bets on whether he would consider forming a parliamentary majority involving his own Fianna Fail party and Sinn Fein.

But in Sunday's statement, Ahern said Sinn Fein's hard-left economic policies _ rather than its ties to the outlawed IRA _ would make it unfit for government.

He noted that the Republic of Ireland has grown exceptionally prosperous over the past decade, thanks in part to exceptional levels of investment by foreign high-tech firms wooed by the country's low corporate tax rate and other pro-capitalist policies. Sinn Fein, by contrast, favors raising business taxes and pulling privatized companies back into state ownership.

"Even a radical overhaul of Sinn Fein economic policy would have little real credibility after 35 years of Marxism. I believe Sinn Fein are agents of poverty and disadvantage. I believe the very notion of Sinn Fein in government would lead to a flight of investment, which is untenable in a small open economy," Ahern said.

"In such circumstances, I would lead my party into opposition rather than contemplate coalition with Sinn Fein or an arrangement for their support in government," he said, AP reported. V.A.

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