The leader of the Irish Labour Party has ruled out going into government with Sinn Fein in Dublin over concerns the party is still under the influence of the IRA.
Brendan Howlin made the comments on the Pat Kenny Show, broadcast on the Newstalk radio station on Thursday morning.
He said his own party is “in sympathy” with Sinn Fein’s goals but he emphasised concerns about the role of “the old leadership of the IRA”.
“We are in sympathy with a lot of what they want to achieve,” Mr Howlin said.
“My problem with Sinn Féin as a part of government is — who runs Sinn Féin? I am not confident that the leadership of Sinn Féin is actually what we see. I think what used to be the old leadership of the IRA still exists in some shape or form and I think they have influence over Sinn Féin and I think that would be a problem in government.”
Mr Howlin continued: “On occasions when they make speeches, they have to make a nod to the past and they have to say things that are, I think, discordant with themselves.
“I would be fearful of how that would play out. I think that would cause problems for the creation and maintenance of a stable government and I think that is important.”
Mr Howlin said his party can still “work with Sinn Fein” despite the concerns due to what he called “very good ideas in a number of areas that would mirror our ideas”.
Meanwhile, former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has described himself as feeling “emotional” at the prospect of stepping down as TD for Louth.
The former West Belfast MP, who led the party between 1983 and 2018, has said he will not seek re-election to the Dail in next month’s general election in the Republic.
Addressing a party meeting in Dundalk, Mr Adams told supporters he was proud to have represented the constituency in the Irish parliament.
“As my term as a TD for Louth comes to an end, I have to confess to being emotional about departing after serving the people of this constituency for nine years,” he said.
“Throughout my nine years in Louth, my endeavour was to keep a national focus while delivering locally.”
Mr Adams added; “But there is much more work to been done to protect our economies north and south and to oppose the efforts by the British to dilute the rights agenda in the north.”
A general election will be held in the Republic of Ireland on February 8 with newly elected TDs due to meet on February 20.