Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have agreed to meet next week for exploratory talks.
Mr Varadkar spoke to Mr Martin by phone last night after the Dáil adjourned with little sign the stalemate that has emerged since the general election is likely to be broken in the near future.
A spokesman for Fine Gael said the date and time of the meeting has yet to be confirmed. "The Taoiseach spoke by phone to Micheal Martin yesterday evening. They agreed to meet in person early next week for exploratory talks. Fine Gael has also accepted the offer from the Greens for exploratory talks next week," said the spokesman.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald won the highest number of votes for the position of taoiseach, but neither she nor the other candidates for the post – Mr Varadkar, Mr Martin and Eamon Ryan – came close to winning a majority.
The Dáil will now adjourn for two weeks, during which the parties are expected to have further discussions, but Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he would seek to speak to other parties but firmly ruled out talking to Sinn Féin about a possible coalition.
In a lengthy Dáil speech last night, he laid out sharp differences with the party over its policies, because Ms McDonald had “praised Provisional IRA units” and over his view of Sinn Féin’s democratic standards.
Ms McDonald responded fiercely by accusing the Fianna Fáil leader of having a “bitter and narrow mind”.
She invited the Fianna Fáil leader to “change his position”. Mr Varadkar said it was up to the parties who had made promises of change to voters to now see if they could put together a government to deliver that change, or to tell voters why they could not.
Fine Gael will also meet the Greens for talks next week. Mr Varadkar left Dublin last night for Brussels, where he will join a special summit of EU leaders that began yesterday afternoon.
Before he left, Mr Varadkar travelled to Áras an Uachtaráin, where he tendered his resignation as Taoiseach to President Michael D Higgins, though he and the rest of the Ministers of the Government will remain in office in a caretaker capacity until a new taoiseach is elected by the Dáil.
Mr Varadkar said his caretaker Government would not make new policy decisions, financial decisions or appointments unless necessary and then not without consulting with Opposition leaders.
Nominations Mr Varadkar’s nomination was defeated by 107 votes to 36, while Mr Martin fared marginally better, winning 41 votes in favour of his nomination to 97 against. The Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was defeated by 12 votes to 115.
Ms McDonald won the most votes, 45, but with 84 votes against her the Sinn Féin leader, like her competitors, was nowhere near securing a majority. She won the support of some Independents and the five People Before Profit /Solidarity/Rise TDs, though they earlier made it clear their backing was not intended to strengthen her hand in any negotiations with Fianna Fáil. They continue to push for a left-wing minority government, led by Sinn Féin, insisting that both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael should “step back”.
The large margin of defeat in all the votes demonstrated the difficulty faced by all party leaders in assembling sufficient votes for a majority in the Dáil. Although parties said they would continue with discussions over the coming days, there appears little sign of a breakthrough.