'To be categorical, Labour would never work with Lowry'
Labour Party deputy leader Alan Kelly has categorically ruled out a coalition involving his party being propped by Independent TD Michael Lowry.
The Environment Minister's stance is in stark contrast with Tánaiste Joan Burton, who has repeatedly failed to rule out striking a deal with Mr Lowry.
When asked directly about Mr Lowry supporting a minority government, Ms Burton made no actual mention of the Independent TD in a lengthy response as she spoke of being "very concerned" about being beholden to non-party TDs.
Mr Kelly went far further than Ms Burton in ruling out accepting support from his fellow Tipperary TD.
"We are campaigning for this Government to be re-elected in their current form and we are confident that the people will come with us and support that.
"We will not need the support of Independents and therefore, the support of Michael Lowry isn't an issue.
"But just to be categorical on it, the Labour Party would never work with or ask for the support of anyone like Michael Lowry. This government and indeed this Dáil made their views very clear on Michael Lowry following the publication of the Moriarty Tribunal report," he said.
Independent TDs are drawing up their 'parish pump' shopping lists for Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the event he needs their support to stay in power.
Four sitting Independents, including Mr Lowry, are understood to be very open to the idea of working with the current Coalition in the event that it falls short of 80 seats after the election.
Sources have told the Irish Independent that senior Fine Gael politicians quietly broached the idea with a small cohort of non-party TDs as far back as 18 months ago.
While no specific offers were made, there were "positive interactions" and "understandings" have developed.
Speaking in London yesterday, Mr Kenny suggested it was up to voters to take Mr Lowry out of the equation by voting for the existing Coalition.
He said if people wanted "a strong, stable and coherent government, they can vote for the candidates of the Fine Gael party and the Labour Party".
But Mr Lowry himself is playing up the idea that Mr Kenny will want him in the weeks ahead.
"The reason the Independents are in the equation and will be in the equation after the election is that this Government, particularly the Labour Party, made so many broken promises.
"People have lost confidence in them and their majority has now evaporated," he said.
Roscommon TD Denis Naughten, Galway West's Noel Grealish and Kerry's Michael Healy-Rae are three other TDs being looked upon favourably in Fine Gael circles.
Mr Naughten, who quit Fine Gael in 2011 after it had reneged on a promise to protect services at Roscommon County Hospital, told the Irish Independent he would have a "shopping list".
His priorities would include a review of what is known locally as the 'Monksland land grab', whereby there are proposals to move the Roscommon/Westmeath county boundary.
Mr Naughten would also seek guarantees around the health service, child welfare services and education.
"If I'm elected and support is required by the next government, I will look to get the best deal I can for my constituents.
"I don't believe that any of my shopping list would be unreasonable," he said.
Asked if the acrimonious manner with which he left Fine Gael would be an issue, he replied: "My attitude to life is that history is history."
Mr Healy-Rae, whose father Jackie famously propped up Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fáil governments, said he was focused on retaining his seat. But he added: "Any person that would go ruling something out about anything, it's not sensible."
Mr Grealish was not available for comment but is understood to be open to offers.
Dublin Central TD Maureen O'Sullivan indicated she would be willing to discuss supporting the next government.
However, she added: "I'm not in the slightest bit confident of being here in March."