Fianna Fáil’s negotiating team for government talks revealed

Four TDs given authority to negotiate with interested parties and individuals

Michael McGrath is one of four TDs on Fianna Fáil’s negotiating team. File photograph: Collins.

Michael McGrath is one of four TDs on Fianna Fáil’s negotiating team. File photograph: Collins.

 

Fianna Fáil has selected a four-strong negotiating team to talk to other political parties and Independent TDs about government formation.

A senior party source told The Irish Times on Saturday that the team will comprise finance spokesman Michael McGrath; education spokesman Charlie McConalogue; environment spokesman Barry Cowen, and newly-elected TD for Dublin Bay South Jim O’Callaghan, who has been the party’s legal adviser for some time.

The four TDs have been given authority to conduct negotiations with all other interested parties and individuals, with a view to securing enough support for Fianna Fáil to establish a minority government under the leadership of Micheál Martin.

It is understood that no contact, even informal, has been made between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as of yet but that this might not now happen until after caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny returns later this week from his trips to Washington DC, and to Brussels.

While Fianna Fáil favours it running a minority government, the only other option it is willing to countenance at present is a minority government headed by Fine Gael. The party has hardened its stance against a grand coalition although it is expected that the pressure on it to enter such an agreement will intensify over the course of coming weeks.

Mr McGrath, representing Cork South Central, would be perceived as the senior figure on the team. Mr McConalogue’s stock in the party has risen dramatically following his poll-topping performance in Donegal where Fianna Fáil won two seats and eclipsed Sinn Féin as the dominant party there.

Mr Cowen is seen as having been an effective spokesman for the party on two key issues, Irish Water and housing. Although a new Deputy, Mr O’Callaghan has been a member of the Fianna Fáil leadership team over the past five years in his role as the party’s legal adviser.

The negotiating team is expected to contact all smaller parties, independent groupings, as well as individual TDs over the coming week. However, it has no brief at the moment to speak to Sinn Féin, according to sources.

Fine Gael has used a panel of deputies for its initial meeting with individual and parties over the past week. Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney have attended most meetings. Other who have been involved have been Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, Minister of State for Finance Simon Harris and the Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy, who is the party’s main advocate for political reform.

Fine Gael sources said on Saturday that Mr Kenny has not yet picked a specific negotiating team and will wait until he returns to Ireland to do so. However, senior members of the party have been asked to continue to meet and negotiate with other interested parties and groups in his absence.