Martin may conclude new deal to keep Fine Gael in power 'within a few days'
A new confidence-and-supply deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil could be concluded within days, Micheál Martin has indicated.
The Fianna Fáil leader told a private party meeting that the Brexit situation was "very serious" and his party must be responsible.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Martin let last night to discuss both the confidence-and-supply deal and Brexit. They will meet again in the coming days.
The parties differ on how long an extension should last, but well-placed sources suggested it is likely to be in the region of a year. Mr Varadkar has said he does not want an election before summer 2020.
Fianna Fáil sources confirmed to the Irish Independent that Mr Martin got the support of attendees at last night's parliamentary party meeting to take discussions "to the next stage".
This involves the two leaders meeting to set out the parameters for a new arrangement.
Teams from both sides have spent the past six weeks reviewing the 2016 deal, which saw Fianna Fáil facilitate the passage of three budgets.
The party's deputy leader, Dara Calleary, updated colleagues on this process, which included briefings from senior officials in health, housing, finance and communications.
Mr Martin noted that serious issues had been identified in some areas, particularly the Government's performance on housing and health.
However, he went on to warn about growing public concern over the potential for a disorderly Brexit.
The Cork TD also said Fianna Fáil was already getting credit for putting the country first during a turbulent period.
"He chose his words carefully. He believes we have to be responsible. "He didn't commit to a new deal but it's clear that's the direction of travel," said one source.
As of last night, Mr Varadkar had not received a request for a meeting, but he is understood to be open to one.
Government sources played down the idea of a swift conclusion though, noting British Prime Minister Theresa May is in Dublin today and Mr Varadkar is attending an EU summit in Brussels tomorrow.
Some work is understood to be complete on the content of a new deal, but sources on both sides say it is far from finished. "It isn't technically an extension to the deal, it will be a whole new arrangement," said a source.
Neither Brexit nor broadband featured in the original document - which focused heavily on the abolition of water charges.
However, the two issues currently dominating the political agenda will be central to the discussions.
Fianna Fáil has been largely supportive of the Government's approach to Brexit, but raised major concerns over the National Broadband Plan.
Despite being unsure about Mr Varadkar's availability in the next 48 hours, sources in Government said they are keen to get a deal across the line before Christmas. It would ensure a level of political stability in Leinster House ahead of Brexit Day on March 29.
Mr Martin will face opposition from a minority of TDs in his own party. Carlow-Kilkenny's John McGuinness has previously said it would be "absolutely wrong" to extend the agreement.