Fine Gael has held "very good, and very constructive" talks with the Green Party about forming a new government,Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
Speaking as he arrived for an EU leaders' summit in Brussels, the Taoiseach said he had met with Green party leader Eamon Ryan and newly elected TD Catherine Martin on Wednesday.
“We met with the Green party yesterday and had a very good meeting,” he said. “Obviously [they were] talking about policy issues in so far as the Green Party is concerned. They want to talk to their people on Monday and obviously they are looking forward to seeing issues that are important to the Green party, which after all have been established for 40 years internationally.”
He said the “conversation with Eamon Ryan was very good, very constructive and very straight forward”.
Fine Gael is believed to be making progress in efforts to convince Independents and small parties to back a minority government on the basis of an agreed programme and cabinet seats.
Senior Fine Gael figures now believe they can secure Dáil votes numbering in the 60s for Mr Kenny if the negotiations continue progressing well. While still well below a Dáil majority of 79, this would put Mr Kenny in a strong position to form a minority government with cabinet positions going to Independents and small party representatives.
Asked about parallels drawn by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams between the delay he encountered in entering the White House on St Patrick's Day and the experience of Civil Rights campaigner Rosa Parks, Mr Kenny replied: "Rosa Parks was an international icon, a woman of courage and bravery who made a real mark on history for its benefit. I'm not going to comment on the difficulties with Deputy Adams getting into the White House. I understand the secret service . . . are apologetic about what happened here, but obviously everybody is treated the same going into the White House, security is absolutely stringent, and that's how it should be."
Meanwhile, as EU leaders prepare to discuss an EU-Turkey deal to help tackle the refugee crisis, Mr Kenny said the issue of migration was "not going to be easy to solve."
He said it was unlikely that accession chapters in Turkey's talks on joining the European Union will be expedited due to the concerns of Cyprus, an EU member.
Earlier on Thursday European Council president Donald Tusk said he was "more cautious than optimistic" about the chances of reaching a deal with Turkey this week.
EU leaders are due to discuss the provisional EU-Turkey plan agreed on March 7th this evening over dinner, with Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu due in Brussels on Friday.
But concerns remain about key aspects of the deal, including the offer of visa liberalisation for Turkey, a controversial one-for-one refugee resettlement plan, and an acceleration of accession negotiations with Turkey.
In a letter to EU leaders ahead of the summit, Mr Tusk said the deal could only move forward if Turkey supports the settlement talks in Cyprus. Among the issues on the table ahead of the summit was the possibility of Turkey opening its ports to Cypriot ships, a move that would signal a breakthrough in Cypriot-Turkish relations.
The European Commission on Wednesday provided details of how the resettlement plan with Turkey might work.
The proposal – which would mean one Syrian refugee resettled from Turkey to the European Union in exchange for every new migrant returned from Greece to Turkey – will be implemented as a temporary measure, before a more long-term resettlement programme is activated.
Under the plan, places that have not been filled under the EU’s existing relocation and resettlement plans agreed last year will be first deployed. Approximately 18,000 of the 22,000 places offered under an EU resettlement scheme remain open, as well as a further 54,000 places under the relocation scheme. It is intended that the relocation schemes can be modified to become a direct resettlement scheme which is likely to be voluntary in nature.
Under the resettlement scheme, each migrant will be individually assessed, with the commission insisting that there would be no “blanket return” of migrants from Greece to Turkey.
While Germany will be keen to ensure it has broad-based support for the voluntary resettlement scheme for Turkey, any definite commitment from other member states is unlikely to be included in the summit's final communique.