So what are the five possible outcomes from today's crucial Dail vote for a new Taoiseach today?
THE 158 members of the 32nd Dáil will meet today for the third time since the General Election to vote for Taoiseach.
There was speculation the vote may be abandoned as talks on forming a government between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail continued. However, acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny ensured his party there would be a vote when they met in Leinster House this week. All eyes will be on Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin after he issued an ultimatum to Independent TDs telling them today’s vote is their last opportunity to make him Taoiseach.
There are several possible outcomes from today’s crucial Dáil vote:
Independents move to Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil currently has 43 seats and would need to convince a significant number of the 15 Independents in play to back leader Micheál Martin to claim victory. However, if he receives the backing of more Independents than Enda Kenny, even if it is only handful, it will be seen as Fianna Fáil taking the momentum away from Fine Gael. In this scenario, Fine Gael will be under pressure from Independents to consider backing a Fianna Fáil led minority government.
Independents move to Fine Gael
If a large, or even small, group of Independents declare for Enda Kenny in today’s vote and very few or none back Micheál Martin, it will be a massive boost for the Fine Gael leader’s ambition to be the next Taoiseach. Fine Gael has 51 seats, including Independent Tipperary TD Michael Lowry. An extra seven or eight seats would force Fianna Fáil into a position where they would have to back a Fine Gael led minority government.
Independents abstain or vote against both parties
Independents TDs told Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael they are anxious to see how a minority government works before they decide who to back. They have so far given no commitment to either party and most are likely to abstain or vote against both candidates. If this happens Fianna Fáil will return to talks on supporting a Fine Gael led minority government.
Independents groups split
Mr Martin’s call for Independents to pick a side could split the two central groups in the talks – the Independent Alliance and the Rural Five. There are already clear divisions in the Rural Five with Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath pushing for the group to back Fianna Fáil and Roscommon TD Denis Naughten backing Fine Gael. The Independent Alliance could also divide now they are being forced to make a decision.
Enda Kenny’s seeks the dissolution of the Dáil
With today’s vote set to result in deadlock and with relations strained between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Mr Kenny could seek to dissolve the Dáil. In this scenario, the Fine Gael leader would announce his intention in the chamber before driving to Aras an Uachtarain to ask President Michael D Higgins to dissolve the Dáil so another election could be held. Mr Higgins could reject Mr Kenny’s proposal and tell him to return to talks on forming a government.