Kenny to offer Cabinet seats to Independents in 'rainbow plan'
Fine Gael is to offer ministries to Independent TDs as the party prepares to rapidly escalate attempts to form a 'rainbow minority government'.
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to ask up to 20 Independents and the Green Party to play a role in writing a new programme for government, the Irish Independent has learned.
The move will raise the stakes in the bidding war between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as both parties seek to get enough support to justify a minority government.
And Mr Kenny now wants to be a position to appoint a Cabinet when the Dáil meets on April 6.
"Independents thought we were looking for support on a case-by-case basis - but it's not, we want them in the room," said a source.
Party strategists accept they will fall short of the 79 seats necessary for a majority but believe if they can get more than 65 votes, the pressure on Fianna Fáil to allow the formation of a government would be too great.
Fine Gael sources described their new plan as a "modern version" of the 1948 coalition deal which saw all parties except Fianna Fáil enter a coalition. The Cabinet consisted of representatives from six parties and an Independent.
There are indications that the Independent Alliance, a group of five rural TDs, the Green Party and a small number of standalone Independents including Katherine Zappone and Maureen O'Sullivan are interested taking talks to "the next level".
A key element of the Fine Gael plan involves convincing the Labour Party to abstain from voting on April 6.
Mr Kenny will ask his parliamentary party on Tuesday to allow him open "really substantial" negotiations that he hopes will ultimately lead to a programme for government.
The acting Taoiseach is also understood to have privately ruled out any possibility of Fine Gael facilitating a Fianna Fáil-led minority government.
"No way, never - and it's not just Leo Varadkar saying that now," said a senior source.
Fianna Fáil is continuing talks with Independent TDs and is due to give them a document on its plans for rural Ireland this weekend.
However, party strategists do accept they have huge ground to make up and will need somebody to publicly back them soon in order to gain some momentum.
In Brussels yesterday, Mr Kenny said people had voted for "a different range of representation and I think as the largest party in the Dáil it's important that we recognise what that range is".
"And that's why my responsibility continues to be to work with those groups and those individuals in understanding what their concerns and their anxieties are, and what mandate they brought with them from their people, being properly elected to the Dáil, and to reflect that in issues that can be dealt with by the next government," he said.
Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who is a member of the Independent Alliance, told the Irish Independent last night that he is keen to continuing working with both sides.
"If you cower you might get your seat back but you won't go down in history for having done anything. There are people running for the hills and minding their little seats," he said.