Fine Gael moves to secure Independent support
Enda Kenny needs support of at least six additional TDs to be elected Taoiseach
Katherine Zappone TD has already voted to support Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Fine Gael will this weekend attempt to lock down the support of an additional six to 10 Independent TDs in order to secure Enda Kenny’s re-election as taoiseach.
The party has held detailed discussions with 15 non-party deputies since the general election took place more than two months ago. One of them, Dublin South West’s Katherine Zappone, has already supported Mr Kenny in a Dáil vote for Taoiseach.
Although he was never in negotiations with Fine Gael, Tipperary’s Michael Lowry has also declared his support for Mr Kenny.
There are 158 TDs, but Fianna Fáil’s Seán Ó Fearghaíl has already been elected Ceann Comhairle and does not take part in Dáil votes. Fine Gael has 50 seats. Assuming the remaining 43 Fianna Fáil TDs abstain, Mr Kenny needs 58 votes to be sure of winning a vote for taoiseach.
The 50 Fine Gael TDs, plus Ms Zappone and Mr Lowry, provide 52 of those votes.
Mr Kenny and his Ministers will seek to tie down the support of the required additional six TDs in the coming days.
It is likely Fine Gael will seek the support of an additional two or three TDs on top of that to provide some breathing space in terms of parliamentary arithmetic.
Fine Gael has already finalised the broad policy outline of a partnership government with Independents, and will resume discussions on that basis.
The talks between Fine Gael and the Independents were largely paused, however, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael negotiated the basis on which Fianna Fáil would facilitate a minority government led by Mr Kenny.
It is widely speculated in Leinster House that Fine Gael will allocate three or four Cabinet seats to Independents, as well as a number of junior ministerial positions.
One Fine Gael source said the talks with Independents would soon turn to those positions. Of the 14 Independents with whom Fine Gael has been negotiating, six are from the Independent Alliance group.
This group comprises Shane Ross of Dublin Rathdown, Finian McGrath of Dublin Bay North, John Halligan from Waterford, Seán Canney of Galway East, Kevin “Boxer” Moran of Longford-Westmeath and Michael Fitzmaurice of Roscommon-Galway.
Issues raised by the group in their negotiations include a request for funding for a cystic fibrosis unit for Beaumont Hospital from Mr McGrath; reform of judicial and State appointments from Mr Ross; and 24-hour cardiac care in Waterford Regional Hospital from Mr Halligan.
Super junior ministerMr MoranIreland
It is understood that while no details or offers of jobs have been discussed, the Independent Alliance believes it may be entitled to two senior ministerial posts and two junior ministerial posts if all six TDs enter government.
Fine Gael has high hopes it can secure the support of at least five, if not all six, of the Independent Alliance TDs.
Rural issues feature heavily among another group of Independents, the so-called Rural Alliance group of five TDs.
These are: Denis Naughten of Roscommon-Galway, Dr Michael Harty of Clare, Mattie McGrath of Tipperary, Galway West’s Noel Grealish and Michael Collins of Cork South- West. Kerry TDs Michael and Danny Healy-Rae are loosely aligned to this group.
It is not as coherent as the Independent Alliance and those seen as most likely to join a Fine Gael-led minority government are Mr Naughten, Mr Harty and Michael Healy-Rae, with an outside chance of Mr Grealish joining also.
Fine Gael negotiators also have hopes that Dublin Central’s Maureen O’Sullivan, who is not aligned to anyone, may support Mr Kenny.