Fine Gael names its price for FF power
Fine Gael would demand a rotating Taoiseach role as part of a grand coalition deal with Fianna Fáil.
Senior ministers have said the price for power Micheál Martin would have to pay is sharing the role of Taoiseach with Leo Varadkar. Other key demands include income tax cuts, improved childcare subsidies and the continued roll-out of rural broadband.
As Ireland’s political leaders struggle to find a way to form a government, Sinn Féin conceded it would be impossible for it to form a government without the support of either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
Both have ruled out a deal with Mary Lou McDonald’s party. Last night, she said it was “disgraceful that the old boys’ club of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael believe they can set aside the democratic mandate of Sinn Féin”.
Mr Martin opened the door to the possibility of a grand coalition with Fine Gael when he got the approval of his party to talk to everyone bar Sinn Féin. While there is opposition within Fianna Fáil to striking a deal with Fine Gael, there is growing momentum towards such a coalition – with the Greens a likely third wheel.
Fine Gael ministers told the Irish Independent the bare minimum for such an arrangement would be a rotating Taoiseach role as had been offered to Mr Martin by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2016.
"I don't see how else it's going to work," one minister said, adding there was a "stark choice" between another election and a coalition involving Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Another senior minister said: "Any coalition would have to be a coalition of equal partners."
A third ministerial source said Mr Kenny made his offer when there was a larger gap between the parties and asked: "How could Fianna Fáil think they would be left with the Taoiseach for five years?"
Fianna Fáil has 38 seats while Fine Gael is on 35.
Mr Martin has indicated he will speak to Mr Varadkar next week, but Fine Gael sources are warning they will have a shopping list waiting for the Fianna Fáil leader. Demands will include Fine Gael's promised income tax cuts, with one source saying: "The squeezed middle need a break."
Another said childcare was a "massive issue" on the doors during the election campaign and increased subsidies would have to be included in any programme for government.
The continued roll-out of the controversial National Broadband Plan (NBP), which Fianna Fáil has criticised due to its cost, and other rural development initiatives would have to be included under any deal, according to another minister.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald blasted "arrogant" political rivals for denying her party a place in the next government at a party meeting in Belfast on Saturday.
Ms McDonald said: "The political establishment of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are circling the wagons in defence of a status quo that will not deliver the change citizens voted for last weekend."
Ms McDonald said the public had given her party a chance to show it can improve their lives.
"A chance to show that will we honour our commitments.
"A chance to shape a government that will finally do right by ordinary people.
"They want a government for change."
She said that was why Fianna Fail and Fine Gael were - and are - so determined to keep Sinn Fein out of government.
"Because they don't want change.
"That is why they said they wouldn't talk to us.
"And it now seems that Micheal Martin's plan is to deny the people what they voted for.
"That is an arrogant and untenable position, given the strength of Sinn Fein's mandate."