Fine Gael ministers, TDs and senators are pushing for Leo Varadkar to go first as Taoiseach in a coalition with Fianna Fáil and the Greens.
The issue has been raised by a number of Fine Gael ministers privately in recent days, while TDs and senators also discussed it during a video conference yesterday. It comes as Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party negotiators formally began talks to form a government last night.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are expected to agree a 'rotating Taoiseach' deal in a new government, with Mr Varadkar and Micheál Martin serving two-and-a-half years each.
While it is expected Mr Martin will go first, Fine Gael figures believe Mr Varadkar should continue to lead the country through the Covid-19 crisis. One senior Fine Gael minister said: "The public might not suddenly like to see Micheál as Taoiseach and Leo gone before the Covid emergency is over."
A second senior minister said: "There is a very compelling case for Leo Varadkar to go first… People would be surprised to wake up and Micheál is Taoiseach."
A third minister said an incumbent should continue during the crisis.
Clare TD Joe Carey said he would like to see Mr Varadkar continue. "There are many people who would say to me that they would like to see Leo Varadkar being the first Taoiseach in the new administration. We're not through this pandemic yet and his handling of it has been very capable," he said.
Cork North-Central TD Colm Burke said it was a matter for the talks. "It's about putting the best people forward and there is no doubt the Taoiseach has done a fantastic job... I'd love for that to continue," he added. Clare senator Martin Conway said: "Most, if not all, Fine Gael people would like to see the Taoiseach continue in the job."
Newly elected TDs Emer Higgins and Jennifer Carroll MacNeill both spoke about the issue during a video call for TDs and senators yesterday. Fine Gael's Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer has also expressed concerns about Mr Martin going first. A party source said: "There is general dissatisfaction in Fine Gael that Micheál will go first. Councillors are very upset about it as well."
A Red C/'Business Post' poll at the weekend found 39pc of the public want Mr Varadkar to go first, compared with 14pc for Mr Martin. Mr Varadkar briefly referenced the poll in the Dáil yesterday, suggesting the public want him to be Taoiseach, while dismissing such polls as a test of democratic legitimacy. Mr Varadkar previously hinted Mr Martin will go first when he acknowledged that Fianna Fáíl has more seats than Fine Gael.
Separately, Mr Carey has submitted a document to the Taoiseach's office calling for balanced regional development, including a new rail link from Shannon Airport to the existing Galway-Limerick rail line, and a new light rail system to link Nenagh, Thurles, Foynes, Ennis, Gort and Athenry to the cities of Limerick and Galway.
As talks with the Greens began last night, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael both committed to reforming EU fiscal rules, which limit excessive budget deficits, in order to fund investment in healthcare, housing, transport and climate action measures. The commitment was made to the Social Democrats in an effort to lure the party into talks.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly has said it is an “undeniable fact” that the Government did not accept all of the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) recommendations on reopening the country.