Saturday 1 October 2016

Leaders meet Independents in scramble to be Taoiseach

Cormac McQuinn, Kevin Doyle, John Downing and Wayne O'Connor

Published 05/03/2016 | 02:30

Independent TDs Sean Canney, Finian McGrath, Shane Ross, John Halligan and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran during a press briefing at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Independent TDs Sean Canney, Finian McGrath, Shane Ross, John Halligan and Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran during a press briefing at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Katherine Zappone

The leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have both ramped up contacts with Independents as they grapple for support ahead of the vote on who should be the next Taoiseach.

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Neither Enda Kenny nor Micheál Martin are likely to get the overall votes needed to secure the office of Taoiseach in the Dáil on Thursday.

But both leaders are striving to get the most votes in a bid to strengthen their bargaining positions ahead of further government-forming negotiations.

Mr Kenny met with members of the Independent Alliance (IA)in Leinster House yesterday, while Mr Martin has spoken with a number of Independents, as well as smaller parties like the Social Democrats and Greens.

One Fine Gael source said next Thursday's vote would be a "piece of theatre", and that "things will start to get serious in terms of actually trying to put a government together" after that.

Another party source said: "At this stage we don't need Independents to back us on Thursday, we just only need them not to back him (Mr Martin)."

Fianna Fáil sources meanwhile, said that any talks remained on an "informal basis".

"The Independents are not going to do a deal before Thursday. They are going to enjoy all of this. Most are likely to abstain ... because they are in the perfect negotiating position. It's only after Thursday that the real hurling will start," a source said.

The six-strong Independent Alliance was represented by Dublin TDs Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, as well as Waterford TD John Halligan and Seán Canney of Galway East, at a 90-minute meeting with Mr Kenny yesterday morning.

Mr Halligan said they presented the Taoiseach with their Charter for Change, which includes proposals on Dáil reform and improvements to services in rural Ireland.

"He [Mr Kenny] said he would look at it. He would seriously consider it. He said he is trying to form a government with Independents," Mr Halligan said.

"He said he will come back to us with his response to the charter and also his plan for Dáil reform in the next week and we'll meet again."

"It was a good meeting," Mr Halligan added, but said: "I believe other parties want to meet us, so we'll see what happens."

Dublin South-West Independent Katherine Zappone (inset below) also met Mr Kenny yesterday.

She has had talks with Mr Martin as well but didn't say if she would support either nominee. She said that would be "premature" but that she wanted to participate in the forming of "a stable government".

Galway West TD Noel Grealish said he had spoken Mr Martin and that he would be meeting both the Fianna Fáil leader and Mr Kenny next week.

"I have nothing to say publicly before those meetings," Mr Grealish said.

Tipperary's Mattie McGrath said he had spoken to Mr Martin twice and that Fine Gael officials had also been in contact.

He didn't say if he was backing either leader but that he "could be abstaining until such time as we get meaningful Dáil reform".

Denis Naughton of Roscommon Galway and Dublin Central's Maureen O'Sullivan said that they had yet to be contacted by either party.

Jobs minister Richard Bruton said that Fine Gael would meet next week to "reflect on the discussions that have been had" and that the party was open to ideas from Independents.

He ruled out talking to Sinn Féin or AAA/PBP and said his party was not in talks with Fianna Fáil, as they were putting forward their own nominee for Taoiseach.

"Clearly both parties want to see their man win. That's what you'd expect," he told RTÉ.

Irish Independent

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