Dublin recount provides new coalition option

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AN alternative Irish coalition emerged as a possibility yesterday after a recount in a Dublin seat overturned the initial general election result there. An alliance of the centre-right Fine Gael, Labour and the formerly Marxist Democratic Left could now be formed with a working majority.

This offers another option for the Labour Party, whose votes are central to the formation of a new government. The most likely alliance is still a link-up of Fine Gael and Labour with the Progressive Democrats, which holds new-right economic views but has a liberal approach to social issues. John Bruton, the Fine Gael leader, will begin overtures later this week, with formal negotiations likely to start next week.

The recount in the battle for the last seat in Dublin South Central concluded at almost 4am yesterday. The initial result - a victory by nine votes for the former Lord Mayor, Ben Briscoe - was replaced after almost 60 hours of counting by a 10-vote majority for Eric Byrne of Democratic Left.

Another check of votes in the constituency, sought by Fianna Fail, will take place today but it will not be a formal recount, so the comeback by Democratic Left is likely to stand. This leaves Fine Gael holding 45 seats, Labour 33 and Democratic Left five, a combined total of 83, giving a Dail majority of one.

A coalition of Labour with Fianna Fail, which now holds just 67 seats after losing 10 TDs (MPs) in the election, is a remote possibility. The FF leader and outgoing Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, has indicated that his party will only get involved in the party horse-trading if Mr Bruton's 'rainbow coalition' fails to agree on major issues.

The Labour leader, Dick Spring, will shortly appear before the tribunal of inquiry into the beef industry to back up his allegations of political favouritism during Mr Reynolds' period as industry minister. This is widely expected to further reduce the chances of any alliance being forged between Labour and a Fianna Fail party under Mr Reynolds when the Dail resumes on 14 December.

Mr Reynolds' own position will come under pressure when his parliamentary party meets, probably next week. A public call for him to quit as leader has come from a backbencher, Ned O'Keefe.

Mr Spring has toned down his campaign stipulation that he would have to be premier if Labour is to join a coalition. Though still strongly pressing his claim, he indicated it would not be decisive, and the main priority was to create a government 'based on mutual trust and a good working relationship'.

An opinion poll six days before the election showed 38 per cent of voters would prefer Mr Spring as Taoiseach, compared with 20 per cent for Mr Reynolds.

(Photograph omitted)