Saturday 3 December 2016

Row over turf is the final hurdle for Kenny's re-election

Niall O'Connor and Barry Lennon

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Enda Kenny. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

A dispute over turf cutters' rights last night formed the final stumbling block for Enda Kenny being re-elected Taoiseach.

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Independent Alliance TD Michael Fitzmaurice refused to sign up to any deal until Fine Gael meet his demands in relation to bogs.

Sources close to the talks say the alliance, which has six members, sought changes to the document before any of them formally agreed to back Mr Kenny.

But senior Fine Gael figures say they expect to win the support of the group, as well as three members of the so-called 'Rural Five'.

The TDs expected to vote for Mr Kenny, according to Fine Gael sources, are Clare TD Dr Michael Harty, Roscommon TD Denis Naughten and Galway deputy Noel Grealish.

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath and Cork South West TD Michael Collins are not expected to back the Fine Gael leader during today's vote.

Consulted

And there was also hope among negotiators of winning the backing of Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae. Mr Healy Rae consulted his supporters last night ahead of announcing his decision.

This means that Enda Kenny could secure the support of 10 Independent TDs - giving him 62 votes in the Dáil and re- electing him Taoiseach.

Waterford TD John Halligan, who previously left the talks process over Waterford General Hospital, told Fine Gael last night he is on board. Shane Ross also secured a deal on judicial appointments and is prepared to back Mr Kenny.

However, efforts to seal the deal with the entire Independent Alliance hit a stumbling block after a row broke out over the issue of bogs.

Mr Fitzmaurice is understood to have stormed out of the negotiations following an exchange of words with Heather Humphreys, whose department oversees the country's bogs.

Mr Fitzmaurice is demanding further measures for turf cutters - but Fine Gael put up strong resistance. A source close to the deputy said he would not back Mr Kenny unless his demands were met.

Earlier in the day, Mr Fitzmaurice clashed with minister Simon Coveney.

He is understood to have challenged the minister over whether Independents would be treated in the same manner by Fine Gael as the Labour Party.

Irish Independent

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