Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have clashed after talks about the formation of a ‘partnership government’ dramatically collapsed in Leinster House.
Micheál Martin and a number of Fine Gael ministers provided completely different versions of the discussions that took place today and yesterday.
The Fianna Fáil leader has claimed that acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny took the prospect of a minority government “off the table”, essentially threatening that it was a coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Independents or a second election.
This has been vehemently denied by Fine Gael.
Mr Martin said the “best interest of the Irish people are not served by a coalition by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael”.
He said Fine Gael wanted the parties “lumped together” but the idea of a government with over 100 TDs was “not healthy”.
Mr Martin said there are “questions around the integrity” of Fine Gael’s offer.
Just minutes later Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney denied this was the case, saying: “I’m not sure what Micheál is talking about.”
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald added: “That’s nonsense. It was an absolutely genuine offer.”
Mr Coveney described Fine Gael’s offer as an “historic missed opportunity” which was very much in the national interest.
“Fianna Fáil haven’t even given a day to consider it,” he said, adding it was “a setback”.
However, Mr Coveney said that Fine Gael would now reassess the situation and while the offer of a partnership government remained open, they would continue working with independents.
“We’re not ruling anything out,” he said.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar said that they would “focus on the alternatives” to a deal with Fianna Fáil but denied that an election would be sparked if no Taoiseach is elected when the Dáil sits again next Thursday.
He said it would be “a failure of the political system” if there is a second election.
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he regrets that “Fianna Fáil has refused to serve in a partnership government”.
“Yesterday evening, I offered Micheál Martin a full partnership government. It is an offer that reflects the way in which people voted in the General Election and the respective mandates of both parties and independents,” he said.
In a statement Mr Kenny said it was a “serious mistake” on the part of Fianna Fáil and “one which was driven by narrow party interests rather than the national interest”.
“Ireland needs a stable and lasting government to meet the many national and international challenges facing the country. Fine Gael’s preferred option of a full partnership is the best option for providing the necessary stability and it is very regrettable that Fianna Fáil has rejected this historic opportunity,” he said.
Earlier this afternoon, the meeting between party leaders Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny lasted just 10 minutes.
Fine Gael felt their offer of a partnership Government was rejected with "serious haste" and that this was "extremely disappointing".
During the meeting Mr Kenny said that his offer still stands and that he hopes that FF will reconsider it.
There was no discussion of a minority government during the meeting.
Earlier today, Mr Kenny got unanimous support from his parliamentary party for his approach to forming a government during a meeting described by one minister as “incredibly united”.
Sources told independent.ie there was no opposition to the idea of a coalition involving Fianna Fáil and Independents, although a small number of TDs expressed concern about the idea of a rotating Taoiseach.
Arts Minister Heather Humphries proposed a formal motion that Fine Gael support the Taoiseach’s efforts to form a partnership government. “It was unanimously supported,” said a source.
However, elsewhere in Leinster House Fianna Fáil’s meeting with party leader Mr Martin was told in no uncertain terms by his TDs that they do not want a partnership deal with Fine Gael.
Sources said Mr Kenny’s proposal was “overwhelming rejected”.
Mr Martin began the meeting by outlining the details of his long discussion with Mr Kenny last night and sought views from the floor.
Following the Fine Gael meeting acting chairperson of the parliamentary party Catherine Byrne said: “Fine Gael TDs and Senators overwhelmingly supported a Partnership Government, as the best way to provide a stable and lasting Government to deal with the issues concerning people and the challenges facing the country.”
Helen McEntee TD, Secretary of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, said “This is an historic offer, representing seismic change in the political landscape. I believe now more than ever we need to put the people first.”
'Nothing added except time," the advertisement for a popular beverage tells us. With apologies to the temperance brigade, we find it apposite as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil finally start to openly talk about sharing power.