Wednesday 22 February 2017

Fianna Fáil seeks game-changer as first Independent domino yet to fall

Published 17/03/2016 | 02:30

Independent deputies, from left, Denis Naughten, Dr Michael Harty, Mattie McGrath, Noel Grealish and Michael Collins who met with the Fianna Fáil negotiators at Leinster House yesterday. Photo Tom Burke
Independent deputies, from left, Denis Naughten, Dr Michael Harty, Mattie McGrath, Noel Grealish and Michael Collins who met with the Fianna Fáil negotiators at Leinster House yesterday. Photo Tom Burke

Fianna Fáil is flat out trying to recruit for their minority government, but nobody is keen to budge. Micheál Martin has promised they've changed their ways and are more interested in good government than Cabinet positions.

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It's less about the Galway tent and more about social housing.

But the biggest problem is convincing an Independent to be the first to take the plunge and back Mr Martin for Taoiseach.

The eight-seat gap between the Fianna Fáil leader and Enda Kenny is not unbridgeable but every block will come at a heavy price.

And Independent TDs, who are effectively sole traders, will demand danger money if they are to hitch their flag to the underdog.

If they back Mr Martin and he doesn't succeed in the securing the numbers to overtake the acting Taoiseach, they will get nothing.

So while Fianna Fáil continues to try get that first domino to fall, it makes sense they would look elsewhere. The Labour Party's manifesto was rejected on election day, but in this strange new Dáil dynamic seven seats is as close to holding the balance of power as you can come. If Mr Martin could win them over, it would completely change the game.

Joan Burton has made it clear that, since Labour's election bloodbath, the party needs time on the Opposition benches.

But she also told the Dáil there is an "onus" on everyone else to try to form a government.

Brendan Howlin added: "We stepped up to the plate [in 2011]. I will not argue the case for Labour again. The people have made their choice. It is now for others to stand up for the Republic, stand into that breach and provide a government."

A second election in the coming months is unlikely to help Labour, especially with its much depleted funds.

They feel they did their bit over the past five years and got no thanks - but if they really believe the arguments made for stable government during the campaign, surely they should at least listen to Fianna Fáil?

They also have strong characters who don't want to fade into the background just yet. After all, power is a drug.

Irish Independent

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