Forces within Fine Gael are actively trying to “pull down from within” the talks aimed at forming a new Government, it has been claimed.
A battle is underway within the party with some senior colleagues fearful that another stint in government could further negatively impact on the party's support.
Since 2011, the party has slumped from 76 seats to just 35 now and many leading figures, including current senior ministers are opposed to a deal with Fianna Fáil and the Greens, and are seeking to undermine it.
Senior party figures in favour of re-entering government have hit out at their colleagues — insisting the country will not reward them for “playing politics” at a time of a pandemic.
The tensions within the party have been visible for several weeks now as many current ministers know their time in office is coming to an end as there will not be room for them in the next government.
Acknowledging such tensions, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted that if Fine Gael goes into government again there is a possibility the party could win “only twenty-something” seats in the next election. That worries party activists, Mr Varadkar said.
“There's huge worry within the party that if we go into government again that we will be a diminished force.
"We're not going to get our way on everything, just like the Greens feel very strongly about things like the 7% target for climate action, things like ending the policy of direct provision, we feel very strongly about keeping the public finances in order, because that's what we need to do to have a sustainable society about tax policy, business, enterprise, agriculture — so it will need to have our stamp on it, if I can recommend it to our party and tell them it's right to take this risk again,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said he does worry about the fate of the party, but he worries more about the fate of the country.
“I worry more about the fate of the country if we don't step into the breech, and if we don't form part of the next government because without us it's going to be a government involving Sinn Féin and maybe far-left groups, they don't really have any answers when it comes to getting people back to work, or getting the public finances back in order, it's just populism really."
“As always, my party will put the country before our own interests — that does worry a lot of people.
"I've been spending a lot of time the last couple of weeks speaking to members and councillors and party activists and loyalists and what they say to me is — and what I hear loud and clear — they say 'we'd 76 seats in 2011, we had two terms in government, at least in our mind we did a good job, the country is in a better place than it was back in 2011 and we've half the seats we had then',” he added.
“And if we go into government for a third time maybe we'll only have twenty-something seats the next time, that really does worry people. Particularly activists who get nothing, they're not on the payroll, they're just everyday people who knock on doors, trying to convince their friends and family to vote for Fine Gael,” he said.