The leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are unlikely to secure the backing of any Independent TDs before this Thursday’s vote for Taoiseach.
Both parties are resigned to the idea that Independents want to “hold us to ransom” and they won’t have time to hammer out any concrete deal despite days of phonecalls and meetings.
Several Independents have told the Herald they have no intention of losing the upper hand in negotiations by picking a side yet.
They intend to play Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin off each other in an effort to extract the highest price for their support.
Sources in the two main parties say that while initial contacts have been useful, they are not amounting to much.
Similarly, the Social Democrats and the Green Party are edging away from supporting an individual, believing the real talks won’t begin until next week.
Taoiseach Mr Kenny is due to attend an EU summit in Brussels today, meaning he will lose even more time.
Mr Martin is due to meet with members of the Independent Alliance today but can expect to be given a tough time.
Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice has spent the weekend compiling a policy document on agriculture that he wants taken into consideration by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
“The bottom line is what’s written on paper, what’s guaranteed and what’s sorted,” he said, adding that lots of offers are flying around but they are “pointless” at this stage.
“It’s like offering a holiday but not having a plane to go on,” he said.
He also criticised Fianna Fail in relation to water charges, saying that they seem to have forgotten large numbers of homeowners.
“Micheal Martin has said nobody will pay for water. There are 450,000 people on group water schemes and 190,000 with their own wells. Is he going to make sure he sticks by those words?” he said.
“He has forgotten about the big elephant coming behind him in the room.”
Dublin TD Finian McGrath said there is “absolutely no way I’m voting for anybody this Thursday”.
“Even talking to Enda Kenny, you wonder ‘is this the right guy or girl to be meeting with’.
“You were looking at him thinking ‘that’s a man in trouble’. He’s under pressure,” he said, echoing words by his colleague Shane Ross in a Sunday Independent column yesterday.
Mr McGrath said he would need guarantees on investment in the disability sector and the health services before giving his support to either man.
He noted that 30 beds have been assigned to help the overcrowding situation in Beaumont Hospital when 80 would be needed for a real impact.
“That’s the nitty gritty stuff we’re talking about,” he said.
Donegal’s Thomas Pringle said he will not be supporting any deal that would allow Enda Kenny remain as Taoiseach.
He also confirmed that he has turned down an invitation to join the Independent Alliance.