Kenny performs massive U-turn as he opens door to Fianna Fáil
Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has performed a dramatic U-turn on his pre-election promise of ruling out Fianna Fáil as a potential coalition partner.
In an unexpected statement last night, Mr Kenny left the door entirely open to doing business with all-comers - although he stopped short of including Sinn Féin in that list.
Prior to the election, he categorically ruled out Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.
But just before 7pm yesterday, Mr Kenny said Fine Gael will engage "fully and inclusively" with other parties, groups and Independents in order to form a government. "Despite the disappointing outcome of the election, which did not return the outgoing Fine Gael-Labour government, Fine Gael will be the largest group in the new Dáil and we are determined to play our part in providing the Irish people with a government committed to working on their behalf," Mr Kenny said.
"We will engage fully and inclusively with other parties, groups and Independent deputies, to ensure that such a government is established."
But the party was in complete chaos last night as a spokesman for the Taoiseach contradicted the statement, which had been released earlier through the Fine Gael press office. "I can clarify that the statement does not include Sinn Féin," the spokesman said.
But in a further humiliation for Mr Kenny, Sinn Féin last night dismissed the prospect of entering government with Fine Gael. "It would be a breach of the mandate we've been given to go in as a junior partner to Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. We said we would keep the promises we make and we meant it," a spokesman said.
The statement was released after the Cabinet met for 30 minutes, during which Mr Kenny informed colleagues of his intentions to form a government.
Following the meeting, a Government spokesman indicated that Mr Kenny intends to remain on in his role despite suggestions he should resign.
A spokesman for Joan Burton said Labour believes the next government should be formed by Independents and other parties.
But as confusion reigned over government formation, Mr Kenny last night changed his stance on coalition options.
"In consultation with our elected representatives, we will formulate a set of principles that will guide Fine Gael participation in a future government," he said.
His remarks came as a growing number of Fine Gael figures suggested Mr Kenny should step down.
The issue of the party's election campaign will be discussed when TDs meet tomorrow. In a clear swipe at Mr Kenny's advisers, outgoing Sports Minister Michael Ring said the election was run by "Dublin 4 individuals" who didn't understand rural Ireland.