Sunday 25 February 2018

Dukes to Kenny: 'Call Martin now to start talks on new government'

Alan Dukes said talks could start as early as this week. Photo :Mark Condren
Alan Dukes said talks could start as early as this week. Photo :Mark Condren

Cormac McQuinn and John Downing

Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes has said Taoiseach Enda Kenny should "pick up the phone" to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin this week in efforts to end the deadlock on the formation of a government.

Over three weeks since the General Election, separate talks between the two big parties and a plethora of Independents and small groups will continue again this week.

But politicians on all sides agree the necessary majority of 79 TDs cannot be reached without the involvement of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in some arrangement.

There is growing frustration among some other groups and Independents at the lack of known contact between the bigger parties. Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae yesterday said they had an obligation to sit down together and face their responsibilities.

While Fine Gael leader, Mr Dukes was the author of the 'Tallaght Strategy', which allowed a minority Fianna Fáil government rule between 1987 and 1989. He said he understood that both leaders had to "make it clear that they have reviewed all the options".

Mr Dukes said he did not see why they could not start to talk as early as this week.

"I think Enda Kenny should pick up the phone or get one of his people to pick up the phone to the relevant person in Fianna Fáil and get things moving.

"That's not rocket science. I think the initiative certainly lies with the Taoiseach."

Mr Dukes believes a coalition between Fine Gael and Mr Martin's party offers the "best prospect of some kind of reasonable stability and a certainty that a programme could actually be delivered on".

But he also believes that the two leaders should make contact because they will ultimately have to work together, whichever larger party pulls together a minority government.

He said: "It's pretty clear that neither of the main parties is going to get enough outside of the main parties to form a government.

"So I would expect that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will have to get down to talking turkey."

Fianna Fáil's director of elections, Billy Kelleher, notably did not rule out the prospect of some arrangement with Fine Gael. He said his party still had an obligation to its election promise to put Fine Gael and Labour out of government and its own ongoing efforts to cut a deal with Independents and smaller groups would continue.

But he acknowledged that Fianna Fáil would not reach the required overall threshold of 79 TDs and would firstly try to head a minority government.

It was up to the Dáil to elect the Taoiseach and a number of parties, including Fianna Fáil, could ultimately abstain to allow this go ahead.

Mr Kelleher said any talks with Fine Gael "were jumping the gun at this stage".

He again ruled out the prospect of a 'grand coalition' between the two parties.

The Dáil returns tomorrow, but TDs will not attempt to elect a Taoiseach and all efforts are now directed at an expected session on April 6.

Instead, attention will focus on parliamentary party meetings of the big two parties.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has said Mr Kenny will update TDs and senators on the efforts to form a government. He said talks involving Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil could not happen until all other talks were concluded and a number of policy directions were established.

Irish Independent

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