Enda Kenny to contact Fianna Fáil by Friday on government options

Joan Burton faces calls to step down as Labour leader

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told Independent TDs that they can either support a minority Fine Gael government or face another election. The Taoiseach still has to ask Fianna Fáil on the conditions of their possible support. Pat Leahy reports.

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny plans to make contact with Fianna Fáil before the end of the week about options for forming a new government.

Mr Kenny confirmed he would contact Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin after further discussions with Independents on forming a minority Fine Gael government.

Mr Kenny today warned Independent TDs that the choice facing them was either support for such a government or another election.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Joan Burton has faced calls to step down as leader of the party during a lengthy meeting today.

TDs who lost their seats including Ciaran Lynch, Michael McCarthy and Emmett Stagg have insisted Ms Burton’s time as leader has come to an end.

It is understood the majority of the party is backing Brendan Howlin to stand for leadership.

Ms Burton has not addressed the issue at the meeting which is taking place in Citywest hotel, Co Dublin.

Deputy leader Alan Kelly is also understood to have apologised for an interview he gave to a Sunday newspaper where he claimed “power is a drug”.

The controversial interview, given in the weeks before the election, caused upset among party members.

Inside Politics Podcast

As talks continued Wednesday between Fine Gael and Independents, sources said Mr Kenny said the choice was a stark one and the TDs needed to be fully aware of the consequences if a minority government could not be formed.

He told them coalition was not an option because Fianna Fáil had ruled it out and his party could not support a minority government led by Micheál Martin.

Senior Fine Gael sources insist Mr Kenny will secure the support in the coming days to form a minority government despite the decision of the Green Party to exit negotiations.

Stable government

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said his party, which won two seats in last month’s election, was standing aside as an arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil was the only option available to form a stable government.

Fianna Fáil held hours of discussions on Wednesday with a group of rural TDs headed up by Independent Denis Naughten.

Brothers Michael Healy-Rae and Danny Healy-Rae also met Mr Martin and his negotiating team which includes TDs Barry Cowen, Michael McGrath, Charlie McConalogue and Jim O’Callaghan.

The meeting took place after Mr Kenny on Tuesday offered an array of commitments to the rural Independents in a package which proposed increased investment in broadband and on the rural transport network.

Fine Gael also insisted it would not move to close any small schools, post offices or Garda stations if in government and would protect the credit union sector. The talks also dealt with housing and mental health.

50:50

On his way into a meeting with Fine Gael earlier, Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath said he was 50:50 as to who to support.

He said he would continue in negotiations with both parties.

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton on Wednesday said there was no time limit set for forming a government.

Mr Bruton told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the talks were “working” well between all those involved and that consensus had been reached in some areas, but that there is still “a way to go”.

Also urging Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to do business with one another was former Progressive Democrat leader Michael McDowell.

Speaking on the Irish Times political podcast, the former tanaiste said: “My own personal view is that they should get together in a coalition government because I don’t believe it is sensible to attempt to influence a government from the outside on crucial issues . . . I don’t think it really works.”

If there was another election, McDowell said, there was “absolutely no guarantee” that Fianna Fáil would return with more seats, as many in the party seem to think.

“I was brought up in a strongly Fine Gael house, I was Garret Fitzgerald’s director of elections, I was his organiser, I was chairman of my local constituency – I know how Fine Gael hearts tick. I sat in cabinet, both as attorney general and minister for justice for seven years with Fianna Fáil... and I know there isn’t a huge difference between them. But they think there is. That’s the crucial thing.

“It’s absolutely ingrained in them. They have convinced themselves of something that is a myth, fundamentally.”

Mr McDowell, a candidate for the Seanad on the NUI panel, also said there had been “a palpable shift to the left in Irish politics”.