Most Independents to abstain in vote for taoiseach

Non-aligned TDs ask to see parties’ policy programmes and demand Dáil reform

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is unlikely to persuade any Independent TD to back his nomination for the position of taoiseach when the Dáil reconvenes on Thursday.

A large number of non-aligned deputies contacted by The Irish Times yesterday indicated they would abstain on the vote for taoiseach.

That would mean that Taoiseach Enda Kenny would get the support of 57 deputies compared to 44 for Mr Martin. Mr Kenny is assured the support of the seven Labour Party TDs but has no prospect of getting majority support as at least seven left-wing TDs will vote against his nomination, and against that of Mr Martin.

Most of the non-aligned deputies said they would not be giving any indication of the direction of their support until they saw the policy programmes of the two parties.


The two groupings of Independents have also put forward position papers and will await the response of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to both. Shane Ross's Independent Alliance group, comprised of six deputies, will meet Mr Martin today.

It has put forward a position paper on principles to both parties and will await their responses before making any decision on support.

Similarly, a looser group that has formed around Roscommon-Galway Independent Denis Naughten (including Noel Grealish, Michael Collins and the Healy-Rae brothers) has also put forward a paper on parliamentary reform to the two major parties.

Finian McGrath of the Independent Alliance said yesterday that it would “not be showing its cards until we know who the serious contenders are”.


Mr Naughten said that Dáil reform was a priority. “The document will be used as a template for any talks that will take place.

“There is no point in talking of a new government unless there is fundamental reform in the way the Dáil works, the archaic way in which the Dáil is run.”

The socialist Independent Joan Collins said the Right2Change group, of which she is a member, would be holding a press conference tomorrow to tease out its position on a nomination. She said she would not be voting for a Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael nominee.

Donegal Independent Thomas Pringle said he would adopt a similar position, unless there was a road to Damascus type conversion for either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

The Dublin South West Independent TD Katherine Zappone said she had had a number of brief conversations but would be abstaining on Thursday's vote as it was too early to come to any definite conclusion.


Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath expressed similar views saying he would abstain. Like many others, he said reform was his immediate priority.

Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice, a member of the Independent Alliance, said it was far too early to make any decision on the next taoiseach.

“It’s like saying we will give you a free holiday in Lanzarote but we have not figured out how to get you there yet.

“There’s an awful lot of shadow boxing and lot of old BS. Everyone will be trying to outfox the other ones.

“There is a huge responsibility on everybody. The public needs to see that people are prepared to work things out. It looks like Sinn Féin will be sitting on the fence. People want people to knock together heads and work together.”

Michael Healy-Rae said the Healy-Rae organisation would be meeting tonight to decide its position but that it was too early to give any commitment.

“One thing that has to happen: this last government was one of the most anti-rural governments of all – the only way you can address that is a minister for rural affairs,” he said.

Galway West TD Noel Grealish indicated he would abstain as did Sean Canney, the newly-elected deputy for Galway East. Mr Canney said it would take three to four weeks at the very least and the Dáil needed to "get its house in order".

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times