Monday 22 January 2018

Does Enda have a prayer? FG not willing to sacrifice Kenny for deal with FF

FF considers supporting minority FG government as Dáil sits

Enda Kenny at St Anne's church this morning
Enda Kenny at St Anne's church this morning
Enda Kenny Photo:Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Enda Kenny

Niall O'Connor, Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has moved to shore up his support within Fine Gael amid suggestions Fianna Fáil would seek his head as the price for a 'grand coalition'.

Within Fianna Fáil, there is now a growing view the party would be best served supporting a minority Fine Gael government as it could effectively choose the timing of the next General Election.

When the Dáil sits this morning, Mr Kenny will not have enough support to be returned to office, so he will have to resign pending the formation of a new government.

One way of making a 'grand coalition' of the two parties easier would be if Mr Kenny stood aside altogether. But the Taoiseach is set to furiously resist any such compromise.

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The Dáil sits today for the first time since the General Election, which left Fine Gael with 50 seats and Fianna Fáil with 44.

Neither party will have the numbers to secure the position of Taoiseach, meaning Mr Kenny will have to visit President Michael D Higgins and offer his resignation. He will then become a caretaker leader of the country.

And Fine Gael backbenchers sought to up the stakes last night by telling Mr Kenny that Fianna Fáil TDs who served as ministers during the boom era, with the exception of Micheál Martin, should not be part of any future Cabinet.

Such a theoretical ban would include Eamon Ó Cuiv, Brendan Smith and Willie O'Dea.

Mr Kenny was also warned to "tread carefully" in any negotiations with Mr Martin as the prospect of a deal between the two main parties was openly discussed.

Senior Fianna Fáil TDs continue to rule out a 'grand coalition' - especially if Mr Kenny is Taoiseach.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward said the prospect of any deal is more likely if Fine Gael had a different leader.

"I'd have to be able to bring my supporters with me, and many of them are saying to me it would be easier for them if Kenny wasn't there," he told the Irish Independent.

During the three-hour Fine Gael meeting, Mr Kenny insisted any coalition the party enters into must be "workable".

Party TDs and senators voiced support for a proposal from newly elected deputy Colm Brophy that any future coalition must be referred to a Fine Gael Ard Fheis for approval.

Fine Gael TDs reacted angrily to what they described as constant "lecturing" by senior Fianna Fáil figures in relation to issues such as Irish Water.

And there was widespread applause at the meeting after it was suggested by Carlow-Kilkenny TD Pat Deering that Fianna Fáil ministers who served at Cabinet during the boom era should not be given ministerial posts in any Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition.

"Some of these Fianna Fáil TDs lecturing us were sitting at the Cabinet that oversaw our collapse.

"We can't have any situation where they are given that type of responsibility again," said a source.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny warned of the need to be patient, that the upcoming negotiation process could take some time.

He also proposed the establishment of an all-party Dáil committee that would set out new guidelines for how the Dáil operated.

The committee would be chaired by the new Ceann Comhairle, who will be elected when the Dáil sits for the first time today. But Mr Kenny will be concerned by the vastly different views expressed at the meeting in relation to coalition options.

Galway West TD Sean Kyne is understood to have spoken of the prospect of forming a minority government, while Carlow/Kilkenny backbencher John Paul Phelan told the meeting that going into opposition is an option worth considering.

But within Fianna Fáil, the feeling towards a grand coalition is mixed.

Senior TDs such as Barry Cowen, Willie O'Dea, Sean Fleming and Niall Collins are understood to be deeply opposed to such a scenario, while others privately say it is the "only show in town".

Irish Independent

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