Fianna Fáil leader still seeking path to government as Taoiseach tenders his resignation to President
Micheál Martin will ramp up pressure on Leo Varadkar to form a grand coalition after the first Dáil vote for a Taoiseach resulted in a stalemate.
Mr Martin spoke to Mr Varadkar last night about government formation and the Taoiseach said he would enter "exploratory talks" with the Fianna Fáil leader.
Fine Gael also accepted the offer from the Greens for exploratory talks next week.
Separately, Fianna Fáil will continue talks with the Green Party and Social Democrats in the hope they would also support the coalition.
The developments came as Mr Varadkar formally tendered his resignation as Taoiseach to President Michael D Higgins late last night.
He will continue as caretaker Taoiseach until a new administration has been formed. But Mr Varadkar said the Government will make no major policy decisions during that time.
Yesterday, Mr Martin said he would be telling the Fine Gael leader he needs to "engage" in government talks.
Speaking at Leinster House on the first day of the 33rd Dáil, Mr Martin said: "I don't think anyone can simply say we're not going to constructively engage with other parties on a policy platform.
"I will be saying to Leo Varadkar after today, 'Look you need to, the Fine Gael party needs to engage'," he added.
Last night, a senior Fianna Fáil source said Mr Martin would be asking Mr Varadkar to discuss finally ending the Civil War divide between the two parties. "Micheál will be inviting Leo to have discussions around the possibility of agreeing a pathway towards forming a coalition between the two parties," the source said. Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said his party will provide stability if necessary.
A Fine Gael source said the party remains willing to discuss the outcome of the election with any party.
However, they will not enter any programme for government talks without the backing of the parliamentary party.
Mr Varadkar has insisted he wants to lead his party into opposition, and will only enter coalition talks as a last resort if Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil fail to formulate a government.
Sinn Féin is still seeking the support of smaller parties and Independent TDs. However, senior party figures were yesterday conceding that the likelihood of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald leading the next government was nearing impossible.
Yesterday, all three party leaders were rejected by the Dáil in the first vote for Taoiseach. Ms McDonald (45) got more votes than both Mr Martin (41) and Mr Varadkar. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan received 12 votes from his party members.
After the vote, Mr Martin launched a scathing attack on Ms McDonald and Sinn Féin over their links to the IRA.
Mr Martin said he could not go into government with Sinn Féin because of the party's "efforts to legitimise a murderous sectarian campaign" of the Provisional IRA.
"Every single time an issue arises about the behaviour of people associated with the Provisionals movement and today's Sinn Féin the response is to attack and dismiss," Mr Martin said.
"Only when the evidence keeps piling up and the political pressure grows is there any movement.
"Offers to meet are expressed and calls for co-operation with law enforcement are issues - but nothing ever happens."
Mr Martin said the "glorifying of the Provisional IRA isn't an accident of one deputy's exuberance" - in reference to Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane saying "Up the Ra" at a post-election event.
He said Ms McDonald "praised Provisional IRA units" when she ends speeches with 'Tiocfaidh ár lá'.
"She knows full and well what the use of that phrase means.
"Popularised first by Gerry Adams, for decades it was shouted in our courts to signal a refusal to recognise this democratic republic."
Ms McDonald responded saying she "did not care" what Mr Martin thinks about her party.
She said that Sinn Féin lives "rent free in Micheál Martin's narrow and bitter mind".
And Ms McDonald noted that Mr Martin sat around the cabinet table with people who have been jailed for corruption.