Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to discuss government options
Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin to meet after the Dáil votes on next taoiseach
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny will meet Micheál Martin after the Dáil vote for taoiseach. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are to meet today to begin negotiations on the formation of a government.
Mr Kenny confirmed he will meet Mr Martin after the Dáil vote for taoiseach to discuss if an arrangement can be reached between the two parties.
At the Fine Gael parliamentary meeting party last night, Mr Kenny was urged to maintain the party’s position on Irish Water, the retention of which remains a key issue for many of its deputies.
Several backbenchers expressed concern that a government supported by Independents would not last and criticised the Independents for taking credit for the Fine Gael’s proposals on rural issues.
The acting Taoiseach will today hold a meeting with the 15 Independent TDs ahead of the Dáil reconvening to try to secure their support in the vote on nominations for taoiseach.
However, members of the Independent Alliance, the five rural TDs and Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan have confirmed they will abstain.
Independent TDs Micheál and Danny Healy-Rae are said to be considering voting against both nominations.
The Labour Party is expected to abstain but its position is to be decided at a parliamentary party meeting today.
Independent Alliance TD Kevin “Boxer’” Moran confirmed the group would not sign up to support Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil until negotiations between the two conclude.
He said Independents would not make the mistake of signing up to a programme that could be drastically changed if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil reached a deal.
“We will not go into government for the sake of going into government,” he said.
Fine Gael yesterday presented a paper of policy priorities for areas such as health, housing and rural affairs to its parliamentary party and the Independent TDs.
It commits to building 25,000 homes a year, delivering 200,000 new jobs, a further €6.75 billion for public services and the creation of a new budget committee examine tax proposals.
The party also proposes appointing a minister for housing and a minister for rural affairs; a review of the National Asset Management Agency’s commitment to deliver 20,000 social houses by 2020; and a €50 million fund to tackle hospital waiting lists.
Independents wooedIn what is being seen as an attempt to woo Independents, the party pledges to increase investment in Garda stations, to expand services at post offices and to keep small schools open.
Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae maintains that “there isn’t a whole pile between them” in reference to documents received from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in advance of the Dáil vote on who will be Taoiseach.
“Today won’t decide anything,” he added. “The whole process has been long and drawn out and people want to see it end. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are going to be the masters of the destination.
“I would hope that they are up for some sort of deal, if not there will be an election on 20 May,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “The sooner they get talking the better.”
Sinn Féin yesterday defended its absence from the discussions and claimed it will not engage in the “charade” of government formation.
Party leader Gerry Adams said Sinn Féin had no interest in negotiating with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
Mr Adams said the two parties were engaged in a “phoney war” and the current talks are pointless.
He said Independents also carry some blame for allowing “this little masquerade [to] continue while the health crisis intensifies . . . the homelessness and housing crisis intensifies”.
“If they cannot facilitate or be part of a new government, then clearly another election is the only option,” he said.
“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to accept that this is a likely consequence of their protracted play action.”
The party met to decide whether to propose Mr Adams as taoiseach in the vote today but it will not make a final decision until later.
The Anti-Austerity-People Before Profit Alliance will propose Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger in the vote.