Fine Gael has said a reversing of Confidence and Supply and facilitating a Fianna Fáil-led government from opposition is “a non-runner”.
Following the meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party today, it had been suggested that one of the options was to see Leo Varadkar back Micheál Martin from the opposition benches, but this has been ruled out by senior Fine Gael sources.
“It won't work. Not happening, we couldn't be clearer. It would also mean Sinn Féin would be the lead opposition party. Fianna Fáil would want to drop the arrogance or this is going nowhere,” one senior figure said last night.
Sources have backed the idea of a so-called 'Super Grand Coalition' with Fianna Fáil and the Greens, in a bid to deny Sinn Féin power.
The party has again ruled out any suggestion of talking to Sinn Féin about forming a government, meaning that a tie-up with Fianna Fáil is realistically the only viable option, if a second general election is to be avoided.
The party has been conspicuous in its silence since Monday, but speaking privately, leading party figures have made clear they would prefer to go into opposition, but do not see it as possible.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Simon Harris, and European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee were in Leinster House to sign in as new members of Dáil Éireann, but were remaining tight-lipped as to what will happen.
Behind the scenes, party sources said the party is perfectly happy to “take a back seat” until the Dáil convenes and allow Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald make the running in terms of trying to form a government.
Tánaiste and Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney echoed Mr Varadkar’s remarks that his party is preparing for opposition.
“At the moment, our preference is to be in opposition, to rebuild the party and recognise the people have voted for change,” he said.
Mr Coveney said his party was “happy to give (Sinn Fein leader) Mary Lou McDonald some time and space” to try to put a left-wing government together.
The electorate “seems to have rejected” the confidence and supply arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, he said, adding that he wouldn’t support a reverse arrangement to put Fianna Fáil in power.
“I think it is a bad idea,” he said.
Mr Coveney said the country faces a number of choices: a possible second election - “which I’m not sure anyone wants but may happen”; a “Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein plus government”; or “some other construct, but it won’t involve Fine Gael and Sinn Fein in government together".
Mr Coveney also ruled out any leadership heave against Mr Varadkar, saying there was no “appetite” for it and that his party leader was just “getting started”.
Other senior cabinet ministers, not willing to speak publicly, echoed Mr Coveney's comments.
“Without question, we'd prefer to be going into opposition. We have been in Government for nine years, we could really do with rebuilding and reconnecting with our base, but getting there is tricky and not clear,” said one minister.
Mr Varadkar also hit out at new Sinn Féin Clare TD Violet Anne Wynne over views she expressed in opposition to the HPV vaccine.
“More evidence that Sinn Féin is Ireland's populist party. They don't believe in science – whether it's vaccines or the need for a carbon tax,” he tweeted.