Friday 20 April 2018

Kenny digs in his heels over talks with FF

Members of the Independent Alliance Sean Canney, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice at Leinster House to discuss efforts to break the deadlock in talks for government formation Photo:
Members of the Independent Alliance Sean Canney, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice at Leinster House to discuss efforts to break the deadlock in talks for government formation Photo:

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny has dug in his heels, demanding Fianna Fáil enter fully-fledged talks on a partnership government.

The Fine Gael leader has offered to host a meeting with Micheál Martin and the 15 Independents because "ending civil-war politics is the best thing for our country now".

Referring to Fianna Fáil's pre-election promise not take part in a Fine Gael coalition, Mr Kenny said: "If everybody in the General Election were to fulfil their promises, you wouldn't have a government.

"I've looked at it from every angle and by far the best option is a partnership government."

However, his insistence that talks focus on a 'Grand Coalition' sparked fury within Fianna Fáil - which itself believes Mr Kenny is "ignoring the fact this approach has been firmly rejected".

Party sources told the Irish Independent that Mr Martin will not be attending any meetings with Fine Gael until the acting Taoiseach accepts the only possible government will be a minority one led by either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

On another day of political farce, the six Independent Alliance TDs said they wanted an agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that any minority government would last for at least half the Dáil's five-year term.

"We need to know (if they are) prepared to work together in minority for a certain period of time, because our country doesn't need an election again in three months or in six months or in nine months," Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice said.

"It is for the next three Budgets, it is only two and a half years away."

However, speaking in Cork Mr Martin said while he believed a minority government will be formed, it was impossible to predict how long it could survive.

"No one is going to get a guarantee of anything in that sense (duration)," he said."A lot depends on engagement and work in the Dáil context."

Yesterday afternoon, the Alliance invited both party leaders to a roundtable meeting to seek a way out of the impasse.

Mr Martin replied that he would be happy to attend "to discuss options for leading or facilitating a minority government".

Sources within his party also gave clear signals that the likely outcome of those talks would be Mr Kenny's re-election as Taoiseach.

However, a short time later Mr Kenny decided to widen the invitation to the Rural Five group of Independents, the Healy-Rae brothers and Maureen O'Sullivan and Katherine Zappone.

The Fine Gael leader went further - saying he wanted the talks to be with "those willing to participate or support in a partnership government".

There is now a deep wedge between his party and Fianna Fáil.

A source close to Mr Martin said: "Maybe he doesn't like the fact that Shane Ross and others have got the message that a coalition isn't happening and are deciding which way to go in a minority."

Mr Ross himself said: "I think the Taoiseach has - maybe not deliberately - misunderstood the nature of the invitation. Because the invitation was quite clearly to get the three together on the basis of talking about a minority government.

"He's responded as though the coalition deal was still alive, which it's not."

Mr Kenny said his proposal would "create a government based on parity of esteem, consensus building, mutual respect and collective decision making".

"Such a government would have the capacity to deal with our country's challenges over a full Dáil term and beyond."

A Fine Gael minister told the Irish Independent that the statement did not mean a minority government was off the table but they are still refusing to give up on a partnership.

But the source added: "The country can't be run on a nod and wink basis. At the very least we'll need a written agreement from Fianna Fáil on a minority."

As the crisis deepens, frustration is growing among Independents at the centre of a massive power struggle.

"I think it's quite appalling the two of them can't even sit down for an hour," Waterford TD John Halligan said.

Irish Independent

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