Thursday 22 February 2018

Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin lose 3rd Dáil vote for Taoiseach - What happens now?

Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny
Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

So Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin have lost their third successive Dáil vote for Taoiseach. What happens now?

1. Back to the drawing board on government talks

Negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil stalled last night.

Now it looks like they'll have to get back down to business to talk about how to form a minority government. They've already discussed how such a government may work. Next on the agenda will be getting down to the nitty gritty on policy - particularly divisive issues like Irish Water and the future of the Universal Social Charge.

Speaking in the Dáil after his latest loss Mr Kenny has already invited Mr Martin's party back to talks. Fianna Fáil TDs are to meet this evening to decide their next move.

2. The Independents' ultimatum

Fourteen Independent TDs have demanded that the two main parties outline how a minority government will work before they back either Mr Kenny or Mr Martin as Taoiseach.

They also warned they're stepping back from talks 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."

Fine Gael has so far said that they won't support a Fianna Fáil-led minority government. It remains to be seen if that will remain the position, but it is a stumbling block in talks. Watch out for any movement on that issue.

Read more: Enda Kenny loses third vote to be next Taoiseach with just one additional vote

3. A new record - the longest ever period without a government being formed

Tomorrow marks the 48th day without a government being formed. That equals the period of time it took in 1992/1993 to form the then Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition agreed between leaders Albert Reynolds and Dick Spring. That's the longest it has previously taken to form a government.

Today's leaders will beat that record.

4. Whither the other parties?

Sinn Féin and its 23 TDs aren't engaging in government formation talks saying they won't go into coalition unless they're the largest party.

Labour's seven are licking their wounds after the party was decimated in the election while the Social Democrats three TDs also stayed out of talks. The two Greens were involved in discussions with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil at the start but pulled out.

Don't rule out involvement from some of these groups as the current impasse continues but the parties desperately strive to avoid another election.

5. The nuclear option

It's what all the political parties say they don't want but if the current mess isn't sorted out ultimately there'll be another General Election. The electorate may not appreciate it. Department of Finance officials have warned that going to the people again will cost €40m.

That's cash that could arguably be much better spent on healthcare, infrastructure and more Gardaí. But the current stalemate can't last forever and we could be facing #GE16part2

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