Thursday 8 December 2016

Kenny to take aim at FF in Dáil update on negotiations

Kevin Doyle and Jane O'Faherty

Published 22/03/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny will take aim at Micheál Martin when he delivers an update on the negotiations for the next government in the Dáil today. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Enda Kenny will take aim at Micheál Martin when he delivers an update on the negotiations for the next government in the Dáil today. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Mary Coughlan: FF-FG coalition would be ‘damaging’. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny will take aim at Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin when he delivers an update on the negotiations for the next government in the Dáil today.

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The Fine Gael leader will emphasise that everybody has to take the current situation seriously in what sources say will be a thinly veiled attack on Mr Martin.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has said a minority government would need "around 70 seats" to be considered strong.

"And that takes some doing, given the fact that Fine Gael have 50 at the moment. But hopefully, small parties and groups of Independents will see the opportunity that's there and will work towards it with us. But that's up to them," he said.

Fine Gael strategists believe that Fianna Fáil does not want to engage on any level.

A Fine Gael source said: "A blind man can see we're the only ones taking it seriously.

"Fianna Fáil can't say on one hand that they are engaging and then hide away."

Mr Kenny's TDs have pointed out that Mr Martin has not spoken publicly since the Dáil last sat on March 10.

"If Enda Kenny went off the radar for that length of time, the media would be screaming - but Micheál Martin doesn't want to be asked tough questions about his coalition options," the source claimed.

Fianna Fáil sources have denied that Mr Martin has gone underground, stating that he doesn't want to negotiate across the airwaves.

Fine Gael will also hold a meeting of its parliamentary party today, at which Mr Kenny will ask TDs and senators for their backing to intensify talks with Independents and the Green Party.

He may also move to bulk up the party's negotiating team, which currently consists of Mr Coveney, Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald and Simon Harris.

It is understood that a small number of backbenchers will be brought into the loop in order to bring "more balance".

"The ideal result from tomorrow would be the green light to start work on a coalition of the willing," said a source.

Speaking in Dundalk yesterday, Mr Coveney said: "I think it's possible to create a new rainbow government in Ireland that has lots of colours, lots of personalities and has lots of character - and actually could be in some way quite representative of how people voted, which was to vote for lots of different things.

"Fine Gael is working hard to try and bring about a process and a structure that can work towards that.

"And if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. But we're certainly going to move forward in as possible a way as we can."

Meanwhile, former Fianna Fáil Tánaiste Mary Coughlan told Raidió na Gaeltachta yesterday that she would not favour a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition.

"There is a great difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael; people think there isn't but there is.

"I don't believe that Fianna Fáil members would support a coalition with Fine Gael," she said.

Asked whether she would support a deal with Sinn Féin, Ms Coughlan replied: "Well, I'm not saying that because it's not on the table, because Sinn Féin won't go into coalition.

"Everyone thinks that the easiest thing is to put Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together in government, but I don't think that's accurate.

"I think that a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition would do the most damage."

Irish Independent

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