Another election likely within two years, Michael Noonan says

Fianna Fáil has opened lines of communication with smaller parties

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with fine Gael deputies on the plinth of at Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with fine Gael deputies on the plinth of at Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has told Fine Gael TDs another general election within the next two years is likely.

Mr Noonan made his comments at the first post-election meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Thursday and told the gathering he expects an “early or mid-term election”.

The party’s TDs and senators have gathered in Leinster House to discuss the fallout from the general election, which saw Fine Gael perform poorly.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also addressed the meeting and said he will open talks with Independents and smaller parties tomorrow on the formation of a government.

Mr Kenny also said he would be willing to change the Dáil standing orders to facilitate greater speaking rights for smaller groupings. At present, parties or groupings must have seven TDs to get full speaking rights, such as questioning the taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions. It is understood the Taoiseach did not outline the threshold he proposed applying.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney apologised for suggesting earlier this week that Fine Gael is open to discussions on the future of Irish Water and water charges.

Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s Prime Time that Fine Gael would be willing to talk about water during negotiations on the formation of a new government.

He had said Fine Gael will “certainly be willing to talk about water”. Fianna Fáil has said water charges and the abolition of Irish Water would be a major issue if it is support a government. Mr Kenny later described water charges and a national water utility and water charges as a “fundamental” issue for Fine Gael.

However, Mr Coveney on Thursday apologised for speaking too “loosely” and reaffirmed his commitment to Irish Water as an entity and to water charges.

Mr Kenny is said to have outlined the timeline and process that will be involved in forming a government.

Mr Kenny earlier this week said Fine Gael “will formulate a set of principles that will guide Fine Gael participation in a future government”.

At the meeting, he was said to have spoken “very slowly and methodically about what we intend to do” and added that Labour have ruled themselves out of participating in government.

Mr Coveney told the meeting that the party principles are written already and that there is no need change them. Mr Coveney said that is the party priorities that need to change.

Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy said the party’s election campaign was on the back foot in the run up to polling day, saying Fine Gael needed to stop being outmanoeuvred.

Mr Murphy also raised the prospect of Fine Gael supporting an Independent candidate for Ceann Comhairle.

Galway West TD Sean Kyne said the national election campaign was poor, adding that some deputies had privately called it “atrocious”. Mr Kyne said Fine Gael needed to acknowledge that fact and criticised the budget pension increase of €3.

He said it should have been €5 or nothing at all. Mr Kyne also said: “This doesn’t feel like a victory.”

Mr Kenny said a committee will be established to examine the election campaign. A number of TDs said Fine Gael should not go into government at any cost.

Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan said a minority Fine Gael must not be held “hostage” by Micheal Martin and Fianna Fái. Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said such a scenario would mean Fine Gael had all of the responsibility and none of the power.