Thursday 8 December 2016

Kenny seeks to lure Independents with a list of Fine Gael reforms

Kevin Doyle, Sarah Collins and Niall O'Connor

Published 08/03/2016 | 02:30

Independent TD Shane Ross during a press briefing at Leinster House,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Independent TD Shane Ross during a press briefing at Leinster House,Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Independent Alliance TDs Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice (pictured) met Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will today present Independent TDs with a suite of reform proposals aimed at winning their support for a Fine Gael-led government.

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Mr Kenny's ideas are largely based on his party's manifesto, which proposed to restrict the use of the guillotine, extend the time available for Opposition TDs to question ministers, and change the way members of the Dáil committees are selected.

Fine Gael is also proposing to set up a Parliamentary Investigations Unit.

Meetings involving Mr Kenny will take place with the Independent Alliance's Shane Ross, Kerry brothers Michael and Danny Healy-Rae and Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan today. A number of Fine Gael ministers, including Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald and Simon Coveney, will also be involved.

But within Fine Gael, there is a growing view that the talks with Independents are somewhat pointless as some form of deal involving Fianna Fáil looks to be the only viable option for forming a government.

A senior source last night said that the key aspects of any coalition deal will surround the economy and public services, and not political reform.

"At the end of the day, this will come to whether some agreement can be reached between the two main parties.

"If not, we are heading towards fresh elections," the source said.

The latest round of talks comes after Mr Kenny's accepted "the indications are nobody will be elected as Taoiseach" when the 32nd Dáil sits for the first time on Thursday.

Speaking in Brussels, where he attended an emergency EU summit on the migration crisis, he said he could not "put a date" on when coalition talks would be finished.

"For me, the work of government goes on," Mr Kenny said. "I am prepared obviously in my capacity as Taoiseach to work for the formation of a government that the country deserves and that the people need."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin met with members of the Independent Alliance yesterday, who continue to stress that they had yet to decide what way to vote on Thursday.

But they were extremely positive about their meeting with Mr Martin, which lasted over 90 minutes.

Mr Ross said the Fianna Fáil leader the showed "more energy" than Mr Kenny in his approach.

"He's hungry and he wishes to put forward some very radical proposals and we didn't see that from the Taoiseach last week," Mr Ross said.

The group presented Mr Martin with a proposal to end the Taoiseach's absolute power to call a general election by fixing Dáil terms at five years.

They also sought measures to end political cronyism in state board appointments and remove political influence from appointing judges.

Michael Fitzmaurice, who represents Roscommon-Galway, said Mr Martin was receptive to the idea of appointing a Rural Affairs Minister and so-called "rural proofing" of major policies to ensure they promoted regional development.

Finian McGrath said he presented demands on health and disability services reforms as well as measures to tackle gangland crime.

Speaking with reporters afterwards, Mr Ross was forced to defend his description of Enda Kenny as a "political corpse" in an article he wrote for the 'Sunday Independent'.

Mr McGrath and Mr Fitzmaurice said it was clear that there were questions about Mr Kenny's future as Fine Gael leader - and they wanted to be sure they were speaking to people with full authority to do a deal.

Irish Independent

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