Fine Gael intensifies efforts to build rainbow coalition

Party source says talks with possible partners constructive after being ‘rebuffed’ by FF

Fine Gael is intensifying the process of trying to build a broad rainbow coalition with the help of rural Independents after being “effectively rebuffed” by Fianna Fáil, according to party sources.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil policy papers prepared for Independent TDs outline common positions the party believes could be implemented within six, 12 and 18 months.

A Fine Gael source insisted exploratory talks this week attempting to convince a loose grouping of rural Independents, members of the Independent Alliance, other Independents and small parties to back a minority government had been constructive.

“We’re not talking to Independents to run down the clock. We’re looking to find common ground, of which there’s plenty, to form a new rainbow government.

“It’s clear to us that Fianna Fáil is not serious about wanting to form a government and they have effectively rebuffed us, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to try to form a new government which will be the nearest thing to what the country voted for.”

Vulnerable

However, some Independents have impressed upon Fine Gael their belief that a minority administration would be vulnerable without the co-operation of Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil finalised a 34-page document on Friday evening covering issues such as health, housing and the homelessness crisis, mortgages and disability.

It was described as a “mini manifesto, including some timelines for the delivery of some commitments” by a Fianna Fáil source, who said it took into account some issues raised by Independents in talks during the week.

The document was prepared for both the Independent Alliance group of deputies – comprising Shane Ross, Finian McGrath, John Halligan, Michael Fitzmaurice, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Seán Canney – and the loose grouping of rural Independents made up of Denis Naughten, Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins and Michael Harty.

Mr Fitzmaurice said he expected all those involved in talks would “knuckle down” next week “and get on with it and sort it out”.

He was critical of politicians he said had chosen to remain outside the process. “Do people want to try to have an input into how the country is steered or do they want to run away?” Mr Fitzmaurice asked.

The Social Democrats, which have three TDs, announced earlier this week they were not interested in doing a deal with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin and Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TDs have not been involved in talks.

Labour is anticipating overtures from both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil but the unanimous opinion within the party appears to be that it has no mandate to be involved in government.

The Dáil will meet next Tuesday. After the sitting, the Fine Gael parliamentary party is expected to discuss efforts to put together a government. A Cabinet meeting is also expected to take place.

A Fine Gael source said that, with the option of a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil partnership “off the table”, the remaining possibilities were either for Fine Gael to construct a “rainbow” government or allow another election to take place.

Independents appear to be particularly reluctant to contemplate another election for financial reasons.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Acting Features Editor of The Irish Times

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