independent

Sunday 25 September 2016

FF will offer Labour cabinet positions to support Martin

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Published 17/03/2016 | 02:30

Senior Fianna Fáil figures believe securing Labour’s support ahead of the April 6 vote represents the only realistic prospect of Mr Martin defeating Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Senior Fianna Fáil figures believe securing Labour’s support ahead of the April 6 vote represents the only realistic prospect of Mr Martin defeating Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Fianna Fáil is to approach the Labour Party with an offer of Cabinet positions in return for its support for Micheál Martin's nomination for Taoiseach, the Irish Independent has learned.

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Senior Fianna Fáil figures believe securing Labour's support ahead of the April 6 vote represents the only realistic prospect of Mr Martin defeating Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

And the party is willing to offer a number of ministries in a bold bid to persuade Labour to do a deal.

During the general election campaign, several members of Mr Martin's frontbench suggested that Fianna Fáil and Labour would be suitable partners in any future coalition.

While Fianna Fáil sources acknowledge it would be difficult for Labour to bring their supporters on board, they suspect some, such as Environment Minister Alan Kelly, will see a return to power as a more palatable option than a second election.

"They have seven seats so they can't ignore the fact they have the potential to influence the make-up of the next government," said a senior source.

A separate Fianna Fáil figure suggested that by approaching Labour, the party was sending a message to Mr Kenny that it was serious about entering government. The Acting Taoiseach said on Tuesday that Fianna Fáil needed to "act responsibly".

Fine Gael has 51 votes guaranteed - the party's 50 TDs and the support of Independent TD Michael Lowry. Fianna Fáil has 43 seats, due to the loss of the Ceann Comhairle's vote. This means Mr Martin has an eight vote margin to close.

Both parties have been holding talks with smaller parties and Independents. But these negotiations have proved insignificant, according to strategists in both parties.

There is now a realisation that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have to speak about government formation in the coming days - unless Labour can be persuaded to support either party.

While Labour supported Mr Kenny in the initial vote for Taoiseach, the party has said it will not do so again next month.

"All bets are off now," said one Labour source.

This has given new impetus to the idea of Fianna Fáil securing the support of Tánaiste Joan Burton's party.

Fianna Fáil also believes its manifesto is closer to the Labour ideology than Fine Gael's.

"Micheál Martin has taken the party to the centre-left which is much closer to Labour. If they would work with anybody, it would make sense if it was us," said a source.

In relation to Cabinet posts, the source suggested that such an offer would prove particularly attractive to Mr Kelly and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

"Do you really think Kelly and Howlin want to go back to twiddling their thumbs on the opposition backbenches, especially with an election on the cards if we can't form a government?" the source said.

Irish Independent

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