Saturday 24 February 2018

Kenny to contact Martin as Noonan drafted in for talks with Independents

Danny and Michael Healy-Rae leaving Government Buildings after talks with Fine Gael. Photo: Arthur Carron
Danny and Michael Healy-Rae leaving Government Buildings after talks with Fine Gael. Photo: Arthur Carron

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny will contact Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as early as tomorrow after being warned that the lack of talks between the two main parties is threatening any prospect of forming a stable government.

Mr Kenny is to draft in Finance Minister Michael Noonan in a bid to finalise a set of proposals with Independent TDs that could form the basis for a Programme for Government.

Senior Fine Gael figures yesterday presented a suite of proposals in the areas of justice, disability, flooding and climate change in a push to secure the backing for Mr Kenny's election as Taoiseach on Wednesday.

Central to Fine Gael's strategy is to win the support of enough Independents so that a minority Fine Gael government is the only option other than a snap election. But during a series of frank exchanges in Government Buildings, Mr Kenny was told that the "cold war" between him and Mr Martin must come to an end.

And claims by senior Fine Gael figures, including acting Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, that the party will not support a minority Fianna Fáil government has caused concern among some Independents.

One deputy present throughout the talks told the Irish Independent that such a claim "smacks of arrogance".

For the first time since the election five weeks ago, Mr Kenny confirmed that he intended to contact Mr Martin once a policy document was agreed with the Independents.

Senior Fine Gael figures now say Mr Kenny will make contact with Mr Martin before the April 6 vote and potentially as early as tomorrow. But talks aimed at ­agreeing a policy platform with the ­Independents will continue tomorrow, during which Mr Noonan is likely to weigh in.

"He's a rock of sense and will bring considerable experience," said a source.


Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil has organised its own set of round table talks for next Monday and Tuesday in a move designed to make Mr Kenny sweat. A senior Fianna Fáil source confirmed the party had secured the services of a range of civil servants to deliver presentations to the group of Independents.

Senior party figures say Fianna Fáil is refusing to give up on the prospect of Mr Martin being elected Taoiseach.

And the party received a boost last night after it emerged several Independents are considering voting for Mr Martin on Wednesday. A potential split has also emerged in the so-called 'Rural Five' group - with sources suggesting that it may not vote as a pact, as originally planned.

But in a worrying development for Mr Martin, his backbench TDs are becoming increasingly edgy over the ongoing political stalemate.

A number of party sources say Mr Martin could be warned to abstain during Wednesday's vote if a victory for Mr Kenny seems inevitable.

"There is discontent in the ranks over whether Micheál is approaching this in the right way. We are concerned that he is walking us into another election," said a senior party figure.

Meanwhile, the Green Party said it was withdrawing from talks with Fine Gael, with leader Eamon Ryan saying he believes Fianna Fáil will also find it difficult to form a minority government.

Irish Independent

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