Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is under growing pressure to agree to a coalition with main rivals Fine Gael.

It’s a proposed combination that for decades would have been dismissed as impossible since the parties were founded, Fianna Fail in 1926 and Fine Gael in 1933.

But a general election is just weeks away and opinion polls repeatedly showed Fianna Fail have no hope of returning to power on its own.

Now there’s a campaign for Martin to agree to a coalition deal for the first time in the history of the state with Fine Gael.

Martin spent last weekend at Fianna Fail’s national convention insisting that his party will not enter coalition with Sinn Fein or Fine Gael. That left his party’s supporters in the dark as to how he hopes to form part of the next government.

Former Fianna Fail deputy leader Mary O’Rourke said she had long held the view that they should cooperate with Fine Gael, which was also the party her father first supported. She said she had set out her views in a major speech more than three years ago.

She told the Irish Independent, “The era of the big parties taking all is long gone. We need to keep options open.”

O’Rourke praised Martin’s performance at the convention but urged him to take a more pragmatic view of potential coalitions. There was even agreement for her view in Fine Gael ranks.

Read more: Most likely next Irish government is Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil

Former party strategist Frank Flannery said his preference remained the return of the current coalition, which includes Labour, or a variant of it, probably supported by like-minded independent TDs.

“But if it cannot be done, then Fine Gael and Fianna Fail should be a fall-back in interests of national security,” Flannery said.

Fianna Fail were hammered in the 2011 election, losing power and returning with only 21 seats out of 166 to the Dail.

Martin has faced a tough battle regaining some public support for Fianna Fail which the electorate has blamed for the recession.

At the convention in Dublin, Martin blasted Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his government as being “arrogant and out of touch”.

Martin recalled the controversy last October when he accused Kenny of misleading people when he told a Madrid conference that at one stage in 2011 he was ready to call in the Army to protect the banks. He also recalled that during the water controversy Kenny claimed to have told a man with two pints that what they cost would have paid his water bill.

Martin said Kenny was s fond of telling stories about men with pints and the army at ATMs.

“But the biggest fairy tale of all is his claim to have delivered recovery. This government didn’t deliver recovery. It delayed it and made it more unfair. And it refused to tackle any problem until it became a crisis,” Martin said.

Kenny has said his mind is made up on a date for the general election, but he hasn’t yet announced it publicly. Commentators are predicting February 26.