Denis Naughten, the de facto leader of the group of rural Independents Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil which are seeking to woo, has accused the two parties of acting irresponsibly. The Roscommon-Galway poll-topper called for a “coalition of the constructive TDs”, involving the two largest parties, the Social Democrats, the Greens and Independents.
Mr Naughten is at the centre of a loose grouping of five rural Independents, also including Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins and Michael Harty, which has been negotiating with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail separately.
“While both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have made it clear to me that they are open to constructive inputs to a programme for government, both at this stage have ruled out engaging with the potential main opposition party,” he said in a blog post published last night.
“I believe this is irresponsible because the fact is that neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil can form a government without at least the benign consent of the other. Yet they expect individual TDs and smaller parties to sign up to a plan which will subsequently have to be negotiated on the whole or on a case-by-case basis with the main opposition party.”
Securing the support of rural Independents is considered crucial by both the Fine Gael leader, acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who will resume parallel efforts to form minority administrations today.
Mr Kenny is scheduled to formally update colleagues on progress in talks tomorrow when the Dáil resumes to hear statements on housing and homelessness, which proved to be key election issues. A fresh vote for taoiseach is due to take place on April 6th.
The Social Democrats broke off talks last week, saying they would not serve in a minority government led by either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, while the Greens and Independent Alliance and Greens remain engaged with both parties.
Independent Alliance TD Michael Fitzmaurice said “the dogs in the street” knew a minority government would need support from across the floor of the Dáil.
Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said whoever ended up in government was going to need some form of support "from the other largest party within the Dáil". Talks with "like-minded" parties "will include Fianna Fáil at a point", he told RTÉ's This Week programme.
Mr Naughten called for a “political partnership agreement”, along the lines of the social partnership agreements begun in the 1980s at a time of industrial relations turmoil, involving “a broad range of TDs in Dáil Éireann who are willing to come up to the plate of government”.
He added: “Such an agreement, independently chaired, would be constructed by all TDs of the political parties Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and a number of Independents who are willing to assist in putting a Government together.
“Such a round-table forum would allow all of those who participate in the talks to see exactly who is committed to delivering on such a plan and this could lead to a real national Government made up of members from the two main parties, the two smaller parties and Independents.”
A former Fine Gael TD, Mr Naughten lost the party whip in July 2011 for voting against cuts to emergency services at Roscommon Hospital.