Ireland’s parliament, Dail Eireann resumes this week with the country still likely to have a caretaker government well into next month
Even as caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny tries to broker minority and independent support to re-elect him to office next month popular opinion is increasing pressure is mounting on Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to form a grand coalition.
To date the two biggest parties Dail Eireann have refused enter into negotiations, citing opposition from grassroots supporters. The next vote for Taoiseach will be on 6 April and Mr Kenny and his party are trying to enlist the support of the Social Democrats’ three TDs, following “constructive talks” with the Green Party’s three TDs.
Fine Gael believes it can secure 70 votes with support from the Independent Alliance, the Social Democrats, the Green party and a number of other independents. The Social Democrats’ three joint leaders have already ruled their party out of any further talks but Fine Gael is expected to ask the party to reconsider.
Fianna Fail, which was advised by London based politics Professor Tim Bale to sit out the next couple of parliaments, is understood to favour supporting a minority Fine Gael-led coalition on which could pull the plug at any time.
But that could anger backbenchers and grassroots supports who do not wish to see Enda Kenny returned as Taoiseach. Similarly, a vocal contingent of the party is equally opposed to entering into government with Fine Gael.
The party’s leader Michael Martin is trying to work out which would be the least worst option for his party even as others insist he and Mr. Kenny should put the interests of the country, and stable government, before party interest. Independent TD Denis Naughten said at the weekend it was “irresponsible” that Mr Kenny and Mr Martin have not yet spoken and called for a political partnership agreement to be brokered among all parties willing to put a government together.
Mr. Naughten said: “While both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have made it clear to me that they are open to constructive inputs to a programme for government, both at this stage have ruled out engaging with the potential main opposition party.
“I believe this is irresponsible because the fact is that neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fail can form a government without at least the benign consent of the other. Yet they expect individual TDs and smaller parties to sign up to a plan which will subsequently have to be negotiated on the whole, or on a case-by-case basis with the main opposition party. This will neither be stable nor sustainable.”
A political partnership agreement across a broad range of TDs in Dail Eireann is what the country needs, he said.
“Such an agreement, independently chaired, would be constructed by all TDs of the political parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and a number of Independents who are willing to assist in putting a government together,” he added. Indeendent Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae said the failure of Kenny and Martin to negotiate was “ridiculous”.
The failure of the two main parties to hold talks was “ridiculous”, according to Michael Healy- Rae, the independent Kerry TD and a potential kingmaker in the talks. Fine Gael TDs and senators were to be asked this week to back talks on a programme for government between FG, and a group of small parties and independents, starting as early as Thursday.
Fine Gael has the support of its own 50 TDs and Michael Lowry, the independent TD from Tipperary, who has said he will support Mr Kenny’s nomination for taoiseach. Micheál Martin has 43 votes for Taoiseach.
Simon Coveney, Fine Gael’s caretaker agriculture minister and negotiator said: “I do think it’s possible now to put a government together without Fine Gael having to rely on Fianna Fail, which I think is something that a lot of people felt probably wasn’t possible a week or so ago.
“There’s progress being made and we’ve had some very good meetings this week with groups of independents and with smaller parties, we’re going to keep that contact going now and hopefully people will see some real progress.”
He said Fianna Fail had talked itself out of any involvement in the next administration. “What happened here was that Fine Gael was willing to talk to everybody, including Fianna Fail, and Fianna Fail really had no interest in that discussion, I don’t think, and so now we’ve pressed ahead and we’re looking at ways we can put a government together without having to rely on Fianna Fail’s support in opposition or in government.”
Meanwhile in other news Michael Healy-Rae had an unexpected clash with a cow. Read more here.www.theirishworld.com/michael-healy-rae