Fine Gael to offer Independents five-year deal for government

Enda Kenny’s proposal includes major initiatives on housing and health issues

Enda Kenny is to offer Independents and smaller parties a five-year deal that will remain in force even if he leaves office, in a bid to win their support for a minority Fine Gael government.

A proposed programme for government may be put to a special Fine Gael conference to guarantee the party’s commitment to the deal.

Next week, Mr Kenny will seek the approval of his parliamentary party to continue negotiations with members of the Independent Alliance, the Green Party’s two TDs and several other Independents.

The proposed deal will pledge major initiatives to deal with housing and health issues, along with a range of measures to spread the economic recovery into rural areas.

Such an emphasis will help Fine Gael to “navigate the centre ground of Irish politics”, according to a high-level party source.

The manoeuvres reflect a growing confidence in Mr Kenny’s circle that Fine Gael can put forward a credible minority government option.

Fine Gael intends to focus on policy areas the party believes cost it support during the election campaign as it works to put together a five-year programme for government, with or without Fianna Fáil support.

Mr Kenny will put a short document before his TDs reaffirming the party’s election manifesto proposals while also emphasising how to link “our economic proposition with social justice and a fair society”.

Written submissions

TDs have made written submissions outlining the areas in which they felt Fine Gael was weak during the campaign.

The issue of Mr Kenny stepping down as Fine Gael leader has been raised in negotiations with Independents and smaller parties.

He has already said he will not lead Fine Gael into another election and the party has been asked if his successor would honour the terms of any agreement reached in the weeks ahead.

Sources said Mr Kenny was considering putting a programme for government before a special convention or ardfheis to effectively tie the party as a whole, rather than simply the current leadership, into any agreement.

Fine Gael is still open to negotiations with Fianna Fáil, either for a coalition administration or some framework for supporting a Fine Gael minority government.

While Fianna Fáil sources have suggested such a framework could be for a period of two years, Fine Gael wants a five-year programme.

It intends to work on such a programme with Independents and others, such as the Green Party, in the weeks ahead.

The programme could then be offered to Fianna Fáil to see if it wanted to sign up to it.

“You’d have to listen to their views and what the conditions of their support are,” a Fine Gael source said.

“We’d be extremely eager to have an arrangement with them that would support a minority government but the signals we’re hearing from there are still, ‘we just want Fine Gael out’.”

However, it is felt that even if Fianna Fáil does not formally support a Fine Gael minority government, Micheál Martin would find it hard to oppose a budget framed to appeal to the centre ground.

Such a budget would contain measures broadly similar to those proposed in the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour Party manifestos.