Micheál Martin starts bid to enter government

Fianna Fáil leader seeks support from Independents and small parties against FG

In less than five years Fianna Fail have managed to change the public's perception of them. Political correspondent Harry McGee explains how they did it.


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has started a determined bid to wrest power from Fine Gael.

His initial target is to get more support than Enda Kenny in the vote for Taoiseach next Thursday.

Senior Fianna Fáil sources said last night that Mr Martin is seeking to build broad support for his campaign to return to government.

He has already initiated the process of trying to get the backing of smaller parties and as many Independent TDs as possible.

Mr Martin has contacted the Independent Alliance’s Shane Ross to seek a meeting with the six TDs in the grouping and has also opened lines of communication with the Social Democrats and the Green Party.

‘In government’

He said the first hurdle to be crossed was to get as much support as possible for the vote next Thursday.

“We could win this vote. That’s the aim now. Formation of government can wait,” he added.

A number of Independent TDs had informal discussions yesterday about their own priorities for Dáil reform.

Among this group are Noel Grealish, Mattie McGrath, Denis Naughten, Maureen O’Sullivan, Michael Collins and Dr Michael Harty.

Mr Martin has had contact with some of them over the past two days but no formal discussions about Dáil reform or the formation of government.

The Fianna Fáil leader also sought to get in touch with Independent TDs Michael and Danny Healy-Rae to seek their support but does not appear to have been able to make contact to date.

At a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party yesterday, Mr Martin is understood to have told his TDs that there are no red-line issues for the party in negotiations with other parties and groups about the formation of government.

He said key negotiation positions were reforming the Dáil, tackling homelessness and dealing with the problems arising from Irish Water.

At a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Taoiseach Enda Kenny told his TDs he will open talks with Independents and smaller parties today on the formation of government.

He emphasised, however, that he wanted to construct something that would be durable and not come down with the first wind.

He added that there were issues on which Fine Gael would have to stand firm.

Mr Kenny is said to have outlined the timeline and process that will be involved in forming a government but ruled out dealing with Sinn Féin.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the meeting he believed there would be another general election in the short-to-medium term.

The party’s TDs and Senators agreed to postpone a full postmortem on the election campaign to a later date when the issue of government formation had been settled.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney apologised to the meeting for suggesting Fine Gael would be open to discussions on the future of Irish Water and water charges.

Many of the party’s TDs were furious with him for implying in a television interview that the abolition of water charges could be up for discussion.