Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Tuesday morning to begin the process of negotiations that the three men hope will result in a new coalition government.
The three leaders are likely to agree a timetable for negotiations to take place over the coming weeks, as well as broad outlines for how the process will work.
The move, which follows a vote by the Green parliamentary party on Sunday to enter formal talks, takes place against differing background noise in the Fianna Fáil and Green Party organisations. The membership of all three parties will be ask to approve a final deal, if one is agreed by negotiators in the coming weeks.
The Greens’ leader has received fierce criticism on social media following the party’s decision, though there has also been significant support for the measure. And Mr Ryan received a boost on Monday when the deputy leader of the party, Catherine Martin, who voted against entering into talks on coalition, said she accepted the result of the parliamentary party’s vote and would engage “in good faith” with the talks process.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms Martin said she would support all efforts to arrive at the best programme for government possible and then make a judgment on whether to support entering into coalition on the basis of the document.
Ms Martin and others in the parliamentary party had wanted firm guarantees from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on a number of issues, including committing to a 7 per cent annual reduction in greenhouse gases, before agreeing to enter government negotiations.
She argued that further clarifications would help to build support for any deal with the membership of the party, where a two-thirds majority in favour of any deal is needed to enter government.
“I think it would have been better to iron out any ambiguities from the outset,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Fianna Fail members of Donegal County Council have written to Mr Martin to express their opposition to any coalition with Fine Gael and the Greens and have called for a national government as the best thing for the country and the party.
The chairman of the party’s Donegal councillors, Patrick McGowan, and the group’s whip, Ciarán Brogan, wrote to Mr Martin on behalf of all their colleagues warning that the party would be “destroyed” in the next local elections if it entered government with Fine Gael now.
They warned that if a deal with Fine Gael proceeded the party would “lose all credibility; completely undermine our republican, historical and established principles which have served Fianna Fáil well since our formation; allow Sinn Féin to staunchly establish themselves as the main opposition party and alternative political or establishment force in waiting; and cause our party to be destroyed in forthcoming electoral outings, losing many seats, presumably at the 2024 local elections”.
The group also said it was opposed to a coalition with the Green Party.
“Any move to include the Green Party and their urban-based and climate-centred agenda would further exacerbate the urban-rural divide and create further devastation to rural counties like Donegal,” they said.
Senior Fianna Fáil sources acknowledge that there is opposition to a coalition with Fine Gael and the Greens throughout the organisation, but say there is little evidence that it represents a majority view in the party. Dublin Fingal TD Darragh O’Brien pointed out that the party’s councillors in the constituency had voted to back a deal with Fine Gael.
Several Oireachtas members who have spoken to The Irish Times in recent weeks said they believed a coalition deal would ultimately be accepted by the party organisation, though they said there would undoubtedly be an internal party fight.