The Regional Group of Independents, the Labour Party and the Social Democrats are all to be courted by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in a bid to form a government now that the Green Party have chosen to absent themselves.
As talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are to escalate from policy-based discussions to a process of mapping out a programme for government, the decision by the Green Party to withdraw from such talks necessitates the other groups to be spoken to if a majority government is to be formed.
The Green Party has made it clear that it only supports the formation of a national government to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
With 160 TDs in the Dáil, 80 seats is required for a majority, but senior sources in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have said they ideally would like to have over 90 TDs on board to ensure any government would last a full term.
The nine-person Regional Independent Group has emerged as the most attractive coalition partners.
“Unlike the Greens, they would not be driving you mad every day of the week. We may not get all nine on board, as Peadar Tóibín is shakey, but the rest are rock-solid, whether they decide to take up a ministerial role, or whether they support the government from opposition,” said one senior source.
With eight of the nine on board, with Fianna Fáil’s 37 seats and Fine Gael’s 35, a Government made of those three elements would have only 80 seats.
Several Regional Independents have said they would be slow to enter coalition with the two parties without another smaller political party present.
Although both the Social Democrats and the Labour Party have previously ruled themselves out of such talks, their position may be open to change, given the scale of the Covid-19 crisis.
After negotiating teams from the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael met on Wednesday afternoon, further formal meetings are expected in the coming days.
Both parties have agreed that there is a need to “form a strong stable government that will help Ireland recover post Covid-19”.
“They are working to develop a programme for government that provides stability and majority support in the Dáil,” the statements said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl have expressed concern that the Oireachtas will not be able to pass legislation after next weekend as the new Seanad cannot be fully formed without the 11 senators nominated by a new taoiseach.
Meanwhile, other smaller indepedent groups have said they have not yet been approached, but that they remain open to discussions.
Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath of the Rural Group of six TDs said that it had not spoken to any party in the past 20 days, but was still exploring options.
Another group, the so-called Independent Group also has six TDs, but not all of their members support entering government.
Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice submitted a policy paper to the parties outlining a number of priorities.