The Dáil business committee has decided that the next meeting of the Dáil on Thursday, March 5th, would not include nominations and votes for a taoiseach.

Development an indication the two parties moving closer to negotiations on forming government

Left to right are Sinn Féin TDs Eoin Ó Broin, Louise O’Reilly, Pearse Doherty and Matt Carthy, speaking to media at Leinster House in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

‘Neglected, abandoned’: rural Independent TDs set out stall for deal-making

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has  declined to open negotiations on forming a government with Fianna Fáil. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Taoiseach says Fine Gael continues to prepare for opposition after meeting Micheál Martin

The Green Party’s 12 TDs and its Senator are pictured at  Leinster House last week. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Eamon Ryan and his 11 fellow TDs would help add ‘changey’ element to a FF-FG alliance

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is pictured speaking to the media after talks with Sinn Féin on Monday. He said  any viable coalition would need ‘around 85-plus’ votes in the Dáil to provide stable government. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Eamon Ryan says viable coalition would need ‘around 85-plus’ votes in Dáil to prove stable

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin  with party members at Leinster House.  He set out in the Dáil in clear and unambiguous terms his problems with Sinn Féin.  Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

The Greens will also require concessions for government that FF and FG will find difficult

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald: Asked if the IRA still exists, even as a political organisation, she said: ‘No, it does not, so far as I am aware, no, it does not.’ Handout photograph: Sinn Féin/PA Wire

Boyd Barrett says Garda Commissioner’s army council statement was ‘political intervention’

Taisoeach Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEn at the second day of a Special European Council summit in Brussels. Photograph: Julien Warnand/EPA

Taoiseach and Micheál Martin agree to exploratory talks next week after Dáil adjourns

Mary Lou McDonald won the most votes but, like her competitors, was nowhere near securing a majority. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Government will make no key decisions without consultation as stalemate continues

 Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks to the media as she arrives for the convening of the 33rd Dáil in Dublin. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Dáil’s return underlines how much has changed, not least the status of the former big two

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar largely stayed above the fray this week, but that won’t last much longer. Photograph: Alan Betson

Party’s efforts to assemble a coalition of the left have been largely performative

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to media in Cabra, Dublin on Friday. Photograph: Alan Betson

Micheál Martin’s firm stance on government with SF throws up a number of scenarios

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said a so-called grand coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would be the “worst outcome” for the electorate. Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition would be ‘slap in the face’ for voters, Sinn Féin leader says

 Ged Nash with  Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin at a pre-election event. Photograph: Alan Betson

Alan Kelly confirmed to be candidate for top job following Brendan Howlin’s resignation

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at Leinster House on Thursday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fine Gael may find sitting on its hands is not a sustainable policy in the medium term

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Some of the party’s TDs have said that Fianna Fáil should be open to discussions with Sinn Féin, but others are strongly against such a move. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

FF leader expected to tell TDs he will continue to oppose coalition with McDonald’s party

To put together a left-wing government led by Sinn Féin, party leader Mary Lou  McDonald would need nearly every Independent TD to be on board. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Efforts to form Sinn Féin-led left-wing government face political and numerical hurdles

Brendan Howlin. Photograph: Garrett White/Collins

It is expected Tipperary TD Alan Kelly will be among candidates looking to succeed him

Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator Pearse Doherty will seek to begin meetings with smaller parties and Independents on Wednesday. Photograph: Tom Honan

Feeling abounds that ‘numbers aren’t there’ for government without FF or FG

Caretaker governments do not have any legal or constitutional limit on their powers. Photograph: Getty Images

There is no legal time limit on the formation of the government

Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil after being elected to the 33rd Dáil for the Cork South-Central constituency. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Independents have enduring popularity and the climate is not that important to voters

Micheál Martin:  “The Paul Quinn murder stands out. But the omerta that follows it – that people are so afraid and so intimidated by that organisation that they won’t engage with the police”

Martin accepts his greatest objections to having SF in a coalition are ‘moral’ questions and are not its economic policies

Sinn Féin  president Mary Lou McDonald addressing the media in Dublin as new Waterford TD David Cullinane looks on. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

SF leader plays down controversy over party’s Waterford TD David Cullinane ending speech with pro-IRA slogans

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane addresses the media alongside Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mary Lou McDonald urges TDs not to make comments that distract from party’s agenda

Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly, elected  in the Wicklow Count Centre, Greystones.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Cavan-Monaghan elects last two TDs putting Micheál Martin’s party on 38

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  speaking to the media at the election count in Phibblestown Community Centre yesterday. Photograph: Tom Honan

Previously unshakeable fealty of electorate to party system shattered

Sein Féin leader Mary Lou Mcdonald waves as she arrives at the RDS Simmonscourt count centre on Sunday. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Hard to see new administration without two of the big three parties coming together

From left to right: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at the final TV leaders’ debate in RTÉ studios. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Hung Dáil almost certain when election votes counted

Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin and candidate James Collins with sister and brother Evie Kate and Jack Relihan on a canvass at Crescent Shopping Centre in Limerick. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Parliamentary democracy won't work unless people take on the task of seeking election

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald during the final TV leaders’ debate at the RTÉ studios in Donnybrook, Dublin on February 4th. Photograph: Niall Carson/Pool/Getty Images

Fine Gael knew they’d be trailing Fianna Fáil but never imagined they’d be trailing Sinn Féin too

From left: Ruth Coppinger Solidarity-People before Profit; Róisín Shortall, Social Democrats co-leader; Brendan Howlin, Labour Party leader; Peadar Tóibín, Aontú leader; and Eamon Ryan, Green Party leader. Photograph: Maxwells

Inside Politics: Broadcast moratorium banning TV and radio discussion of election begins at 2pm today

Sinn Féin’s housing policy is central to its approach – and it has sought to appeal directly to younger voters.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Promise of change as well as housing and taxation policies appeal to key demographic

Our political team will offer news, insight, analysis and opinion as the count unfolds

fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: “Sinn Féin’s justification for the IRA’s war is a continuing one. There never has really been any contrition and also to a large extent they want to shove down the throats of a new generation a narrative about the atrocities there were carried out which in my view serves to poison future generations.” Photograph Nick Bradshaw

FF leader wants SF to admit IRA campaign was 40 years of failure

Mary Lou McDonald (right)  came under pressure on a possible coalition government, when she did not rule out voting for either Micheál  Martin (left) or Leo Varadkar (centre)  for Taoiseach and also for her position on the Special Criminal Court. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Varadkar and Martin claim SF plans are reckless and could cost jobs

Urban voters and younger voters are more concerned with housing, while rural voters and older voters give health a higher priority.  Photograph: Getty Images

Economy, climate, Brexit register far lower when voters asked what should be prioritised

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: ‘People get that there is a crisis. What we have to do is present the solutions.’ Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Party leader rejects as ‘nonsense’ claims that green agenda a risk to rural Ireland

Fianna Fáil remains most popular choice for government, with more voters preferring coalition government involving party

Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin, Brendan Howlin: Offered a series of potential coalition arrangements for the next government, the most popular option found in the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll was the Green Party, Fianna Fáil and Labour, which was the first choice of 17 per cent of voters.

Inconclusive outcome likely to result in pressure on Micheál Martin to consider all options

Irish Times poll analysis: Mood for change could transform the Irish political landscape

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald looks set to be included in the final televised leaders’ debate. Photograph: Collins

Debate had been scheduled to take place between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders only

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD  addressing the Institute of International & European Affairs. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Inside Politics: Howlin wants to build ‘progressive alliance’ before coalition talks

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin TD canvassing in Dun Laoghaire with the party's  candidate Juliette O'Connell.Photograph by Crispin Rodwell for the Irish Times

Interview: Labour Party leader would seek to work with left TDs to have ‘real influence’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael candidate Gabrielle McFadden canvass at Sheraton shopping centre in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

FF reacts to Leo Varadkar’s ‘backwoodsmen’ comment as campaign enters final week

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael candidate Gabrielle McFadden canvassing at the Sheraton Shopping Centre in Athlone, County Westmeath.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Varadkar says Fine Gael is the ‘real party of change’ and claims Fianna Fáil will roll back social progress

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressing the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ultimate destination of ‘change’ voters will decide balance of power in this fascinating vote

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O’Neil: some voters are attracted to party’s message of radical change, but others are nervous about some promises. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Focus groups suggest Fine Gael faces a struggle in final week of campaign

Posters for different political parties around Dublin.  Photograph:

Discussions suggest voters want something different but are unsure of what that means

Sinn Féin’s  Pearse Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald. The party could be on the verge of a major breakthrough, with polls  tracking a big increase in support since late last year. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Despite rise in polls, history suggests Mary Lou McDonald still has a fight on her hands

Britain’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage holds a union flag during a European Parliament plenary session in Brussels on Wednesday. Photograph: John Thys/AFP

Overwhelming mood was of reluctant Yes to allow what Barnier called ‘orderly withdrawal’

Even a free-trade agreement would result in the Irish economy being 3.2-3.9 per cent smaller. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Best-case scenario will still hurt Irish commerce with UK, Cabinet to be told

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of the party’s general election manifesto in Dublin.  Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald describes manifesto as ‘uplifting and fair’

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald  said the party would not be in government unless that government undertook to prepare for a united Ireland. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Businesses, banks and better-off to pay for public spending bill

From left to right: Fine Gael leader Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, Solidarity People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett, Social Democrats joint leader Roisin Shortall, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin on stage before Monday night’s debate. Photograph: Niall Carson/Pool/Getty

Spiky exchanges proceed familiar positions on housing, crime, tax and more

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Party leader has insisted during election campaign that she does not ‘take instruction from anyone’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar canvassing in Dundrum with party colleagues Josepha Madigan and Neale Richmond.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Inside Politics: If there’s going to be a decisive move, it will probably come this week

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a rally in Drogheda, Co Louth, to voice opposition to drug-related violence in the town on Saturday. Varadkar has again ruled out talking to Sinn Féin about a coalition government. Photograph: Caroline Quinn/PA Wire

Growing nervousness in Fine Gael as party trails Fianna Fáil in opinion polls

Frances Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar out canvassing in Dundrum with Fine Gael colleague Josepha Madigan. Many in the party accept they have had a difficult first half of the campaign. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Across the party they accept that messages have fallen flat. So where next for the campaign?

 Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Féin’s general election candidate launch in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mary Lou McDonald has been beating the unity drum since she became leader

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks at Sinn Féin’s general election candidate launch in the Mansion House, Dublin, earlier this week. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Cash-for-ash claim cited as evidence SF chief must listen to views of former IRA figures

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. “The Greens are in the hunt for 10 seats or so, and could well do better than that if a wave comes their way (possible but not yet probable).” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Centre-left parties may never get a better chance to implement their policies

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar buys sunflowers from flower seller Gertie Humphrey on Dublin’s Grafton Street on Friday. Photograph: Damien Eagers

Coveney criticised for saying Martin 'not the person' to handle Brexit negotiations

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney (rear) and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at Fine Gael’s election manifesto launch in Dublin on Friday afternoon. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Varadkar warns that voters will pay more tax unless his party is in government

Striking the right note: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  local candidate Emer Currie (both left) with members of a ukelele class  at Castleknock Community College, Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Promises include health and childcare spending, and raising the tax threshold

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) raised the question of a grand coalition with Fianna Fáil during Wednesday night’s Virgin Media leaders’ debate with Micheál Martin.

Taoiseach’s ploy might not win Fine Gael a lot of votes, but it could cost Fianna Fáil some

Taoiseach Leo Varakar (L) and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Neither Fianna Fáil not Fine Gael responded to queries seeking the costs of their pension promises

Fears of auction election grow as all parties make largely uncosted pledges

 Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath: ‘We’re not getting involved in an auction with Fine Gael on income tax.’ Photograph: Fianna Fáil handout/PA Wire

Party commits to reducing USC and raising threshold for high rate of tax in €1.3bn package

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – at the mart in Fermoy, Co Cork – is up against it. Photograph: Douglas O’Connor

Inside Politics: Latest Irish Times poll finds 75 per cent of voters are in favour of change of government

A lot of Fine Gaelers have placed their faith in a repeat of the 2007 election, when a late swing re-elected for a third term an unloved, but grudgingly respected Fianna Fáil government led by Bertie Ahern. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Polls show electorate wants change, so the party needs to prove it can do better

When respondents were asked their preference for taoiseach, there is little between Leo Varadkar (24%), Micheál Martin (23%) and Mary Lou McDonald (20%).

With over two weeks to go, survey shows 75% of electorate favour some or radical change

Two concerns far outweigh influence of economy, climate change and Brexit for electorate

 Farmers protest: Kevin Smith from Co Cavan outside Government Buildings last week. Have the farmers abandoned Fine Gael for Fianna Fáil?  Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Farmers, Independents, the grey vote and more

Greens set to make gains, Labour struggling while Independents on course to lose seats

Fine Gael has been confronted with its own unpopularity and its leader has seen his popularity slump

 Labour general election candidates Cllr Juliette O’Connell (left), Rebecca Moynihan (2nd left) and Annie Hoey (right) with director of elections Senator Ivana Bacik during the launch of the Labour Party’s proposals  to tackle gender inequality in the workplace. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Party plans pilot scheme where State employees would mind children in State facilities

“Fianna Fáil’s campaign isn’t just similar to 2016; it’s actually using the same slogan . . . like Fine Gael, it will need more than that if it’s going to win.” Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil so far running versions of their 2016 election campaigns

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan  visit Drogheda on Friday, where teenager  Keane Mulready-Woods was murdered and his body dismembered. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Violent crime now central election issue as Varadkar promises more resources

Minister for Finance  Paschal Donohoe: anticipated slowdown in  corporation tax receipts would  cease to turbo-charge public coffers. Photograph: Gareth Chaney

Election 2020: Campaign about to focus on how unallocated €11bn might be used to 2025

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (L), Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Heather Humphreys, and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe  at the Fine Gael launch. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Féin comes under pressure over comments by councillor about Taoiseach

Maureen O’Sullivan TD at the Dáil in 2016. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil, Social Democrats, Greens due to fight for seat held by Gregory group

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Business Heather Humphreys at Fine Gael press conference to launch their economic plan. Photograph  : Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Fine Gael’s tax plan likely to see higher rate threshold rise to €50,000

The scene in Dublin  where a homeless man was injured during a tent clearing operation along the banks of the Grand Canal. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tent containing homeless man was ‘checked verbally’ before being lifted

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the party’s opening press conference of the general election campaign in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Fran Veale/The Irish Times.

Party leader says Fine Gael in power would result in ‘more of the same’ for next five years

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaves Government Buildings to travel to Áras an Uachtaráin to seek a dissolution of the 32nd Dáil on Tuesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Opposition leaders focus on FG’s record on health and housing as vote is called

Michael Martin (right), leader of Fianna Fáil, speaks to the media in Dublin after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed Ireland’s next general election will be held on Saturday, February 8th. Photograph: Damien Eagers/PA Wire

Analysis: Smaller parties will seek to elbow into debate with sharp and distinctive messages

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  at the dissolution of the 32nd Dáil from President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Tom Honan

Taoiseach says now is the best time for vote as President Higgins dissolves 32nd Dáil

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has already come under attack from Fine Gael ahead of a general election. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Vote may be the most intense FF-FG contest since Haughey-FitzGerald – but that is not all

A general election which could be announced as early as Tuesday by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.   Photograph: Douglas O’Connor

Politicians from all parties are already in campaign mode as opponents trade barbs

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: Like all governments, this one underestimates the extent of its unpopularity among voters. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Holding out until May would give Fine Gael more time to change ‘put them out’ mood

There’s a huge question mark over how effective a campaigner Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar will be: even those close to him concede that they don’t know. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty

Economic conditions will play a role, but the campaign itself will decide the electoral outcome

Though Leo Varadkar played Brexit cannily, he spent much of 2019 under domestic pressure. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Year in Review: It often felt like the true epicentre of Irish politics was Westminster

In the manner of WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers, The Irish Times has obtained copies of Irish political leaders’ letters to Santa. Photograph: iStock/Getty

We publish these letters in the public interest. Any embarrassment to Santa is regretted

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: ‘I think that people have to be full-time [in] politics in the sense of pursuing issues.’ Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

RTÉ revealed Keith Swanick recorded presence in Leinster House while rarely voting

Former Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy did not participate in Dáil votes on more than a third of the sitting and voting days he fobbed in electronically in Leinster House during 2018 and 2019.

‘It remains my intention to establish that I have not broken any rules’ - ex-Fine Gael TD

Verona Murphy votes at Ramsgrange Parish Hall in Wexford during a byelection in late November. File photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Immigration and climate change are among the issues set to define Irish politics

Creches are to receive average funding of €1,500 in the coming days to assist with administrative costs. Photograph: iStock

Zappone denies funding of €1,500 is a bailout to deal with rising premiums

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