Saturday 25 January 2020

Some 14 of Dáil's Independent TDs pulled out of Government talks

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

Some 14 of the Dáil's Independent TDs pulled out of talks aimed at Government formation until Fine Gael and Fianna Fail strike a deal.

But the group of 14 Independent TDs have agreed at lunchtime to abstain from today’s vote for Taoiseach in what has been dubbed the ‘Ag House Agreement’.

The 14 deputies include the Independent Alliance, the so-called ‘Rural Five’, the two Healy Rae brothers and Maureen O’Sullivan.

Independent TD Katherine Zappone did not sign the agreement but has previously indicated that she will abstain.

The decision to unite came following a meeting of the Independents in Agriculture House close to the Dáil.

The news of the pact will come as a blow to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who had hoped to pick up a number of votes in a bid to close the gap on Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

The signatures of the Dail deputies
The signatures of the Dail deputies

Mr Kenny has been meeting his Fine Gael negotiating team ahead of the vote at 2:30pm.

Mr Martin also met his parliamentary party as it now becomes clear that a Fine Gael-led minority government or another general election are the most likely outcomes.

Read More: So what are the five possible outcomes from today's crucial Dail vote for a new Taoiseach today?

The Independents who made the agreement to abstain this afternoon released a statement as well as a copy of the signed document.

"The fourteen undersigned Independent TDs have agreed to abstain on the votes for the two main parties for the position of An Taoiseach today.

"We are stepping back from the talks on the formation of a new government with both parties until they agree a reciprocal agreement that they will give mutual support to each other, in the event of either party leader becoming Taoiseach in a minority government.

"We require that they agree to a minimum of three Budgets in order to give stability to the Irish people. We are offering to facilitate both parties in this task in any way that will hasten the formation of a government," the statement concluded.

It is signed by the members of the Independent Alliance: Shane Ross, Seán Canney, Michael Fitzmaurice, John Halligan, Finian McGrath and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran as well as Dublin Central Independent Maureen O'Sullivan.

The 'Rural Five' group of Denis Naughton, Michael Collins, Noel Grealish, Dr Michael Harty and Mattie McGrath also signed as did Kerry Independents Michael and Danny Healy-Rae.

Read More: Willie O'Dea: Fine Gael fear a stampede of Independents supporting Micheál Martin in Taoiseach vote

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