Independent TDs forming groups ahead of first Dáil sitting

Sinn Féin has invited Independents to talks on potential government formation

A number of separate groups of Independent TDs are forming ahead of the first sitting of the 33rd Dáil on Thursday.

Sinn Féin has invited Independents to talks on potential government formation, and a number of groups of non-party Deputies are forming ahead of the Dáil convening.

One group, spearheaded by Tipperary Independent Mattie McGrath, is engaging in government talks.

Another group of Independents, organised by Marian Harkin and Michael Fitzmaurice, is meeting to form a technical group to get greater Dáil speaking time. It is not yet known if this group will then engage in government talks.

These two groups are in addition to Independents 4Change Deputies.

Another Independent, Roscommon’s Denis Naughten, is understood to be considering standing for ceann comhairle of the Dáil.

It is expected that no one will be elected taoiseach by the Dáil on Thursday, with Leo Varadkar, Mary Lou McDonald, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan putting their names forward.

One member of the Fianna Fáil frontbench suggested that Fine Gael could help a Fianna Fáil-led minority government pass budgets, but retain the right to vote as it pleased on Dáil motions of confidence.

Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte said: “It is important that Fianna Fáil would secure the support of the Greens, Labour and the Soc Dems, and then come to the conversation with Fine Gael seeking support on budgetary matters.

“Not on confidence matters – budgetary matters. Any Ministers doing their jobs, there’ll be confidence in them.”

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party is scheduled to meet in Leinster House on Wednesday evening although no agenda for the meeting has been circulated in advance. TDs speculated that party leader Micheál Martin may appoint his negotiating team for government formation talks at the meeting,

Green Party talks

On Tuesday, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said coalition formation talks should take weeks not months, as his deputy leader Catherine Martin called on other parties to “woman up” and get on with the process.

Mr Ryan, a TD for Dublin Bay South, said it would take time to negotiate a programme for government to get the level of detail needed. But he said: “It’s several weeks, it’s not days but it shouldn’t be months because there is a job to do and we should get on with it.”

The Green Party is in contact with Sinn Féin about setting up a first meeting to discuss their policy priorities but Mr Ryan acknowledged that it would be difficult to get a stable left-wing government in place. The meeting is expected to happen later in the week.

“The reality is when you look at the numbers it’s hard to see how you get a stable government,” Mr Ryan said.

Sinn Féin expects to further meetings on potential government formation over the coming days with the Green Party, Labour, People Before Profit, Independents4Change and others.

The Sinn Féin negotiating team – TDs Pearse Doherty, Louise O’Reilly, Eoin Ó Broin and Matt Carthy - met with Martin Fraser, the secretary general of the Government in Government Buildings.

It is normal for senior civil servants to make themselves available and information available to parties attempting to form a government.

“We want to discuss how those proposals can be transformed into a programme for government for change,” Mr Doherty said on his way into the meeting.

“This is about making sure that we have the information available to us, to advance those discussions as we now get into the policy detail of compatibility or areas where there may be no compatibility as we begin those discussions. So this is very much Sinn Féin intensifying the talks over the last number of days.”

He said the meetings would assess what change is “deliverable and deliverable in the timeframe that we want it delivered”.