Saturday 1 October 2016

Healy-Rae brothers divided as Enda Kenny works to gather Independents

Published 02/05/2016 | 02:30

The Healy-Rae brothers Michael D (left) and Danny. Photo: Tom Burke
The Healy-Rae brothers Michael D (left) and Danny. Photo: Tom Burke

The Healy-Rae brothers, Michael and Danny, have taken different stances on the prospect of backing a minority coalition led by Fine Gael with Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.

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Dáil newcomer Danny has confirmed that he will definitely not vote for Enda Kenny this coming week.

"The people of the country and the people of Kerry did not want that government led by Enda Kenny returned to office," Danny Healy-Rae said.

Danny Healy-Rae's possible refusal to back the Fine Gael-led arrangement had been the subject of speculation at Leinster House for the past week. But he confirmed on Radio Kerry that he had made up his mind some time ago.

At the same time, Michael Healy-Rae, who took over his father Jackie's Kerry Dáil seat in 2011, is understood to be still keeping his options open on coalition.

But it is also thought that, for the moment at the very least, Michael will not figure in talks on Independents' support, which open at Government Buildings in Dublin today.

The Fine Gael negotiating team is expected meet with up to 11 Independents today.

The six-member Independent Alliance, which includes Shane Ross of Dublin Rathdown, are due to begin discussions at 10am.

The five so-called "Rural Independents" whose members include Denis Naughten of Roscommon-Galway, will begin negotiations at 6pm this evening.

Enda Kenny already has the support of two Independents, former Fine Gael Minister Michael Lowry, and newly-elected Independent Katherine Zappone. He needs at least six more to amass the minimum of 58 votes required to elect a Taoiseach, providing Fianna Fáil abstain.

Fine Gael negotiator and acting Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, said he was hopeful the final piece of the jigsaw can be put in place.

But he signalled lengthy negotiations with Independents, saying a deal could take up until next Friday, and it was unlikely to done in time for the scheduled fourth vote on choosing a Taoiseach fixed for Wednesday.

He also dismissed suggestions that Mr Kenny's party leadership was open to question.

"Within Fine Gael the focus is very much on trying to put a Government together," Mr Coveney said.

But already there are doubts about how many members of each Independent bloc will opt to back government.

John Halligan of the Independent Alliance said he cannot do so unless he gets reassurances on cardiac care services at Waterford University Hospital.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, also part of the negotiating team, has met separately with Deputy Halligan on the issue. But a spokesman for Mr Varadkar did not sound a very upbeat note last night on the issue.

"Minister Varadkar always made it clear that Fine Gael was exploring what was possible in terms of cost, timelines, patient outcomes and safety."

Mr Halligan says he would not expect his Independent Alliance colleagues to stand back if he cannot participate in any deal.

But others in the Alliance said that they would try to stand together.

Irish Independent

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