- with reporting from Juno McEnroe and Cianan Brennan
Fianna Fáil calls for Fine Gael to support it in government from the opposition benches have been dismissed as “arrogant” and “unworkable”.
Senior figures in Fine Gael have said reversing the confidence and supply deal and facilitating a Fianna Fáil-led government from opposition is “a non-runner”.
Following a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party yesterday, finance spokesman Michael McGrath called on Fine Gael to clarify its position on supporting his party from the opposition benches.
“It has to be explored. There are no easy options here,” Mr McGrath said.
Fine Gael ministerial sources hit back, rejecting the idea out of hand.
“It won’t work,” said one senior figure last night. “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.”
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, sources have backed the idea of a so-called super grand coalition with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party in a bid to deny Sinn Féin power.
At a four-hour parliamentary party meeting, Fianna Fáil ruled out entering government with Sinn Fein but wants Fine Gael to clarify whether it would support Micheál Martin as taoiseach in a reverse confidence and supply agreement.
Mr Martin told the parliamentary party yesterday that he wants to form a government — but has ruled out working with Sinn Fein.
Speaking to TDs, senators, and MEPs in Leinster House, Mr Martin discussed the fallout from the weekend’s general election, in which the party lost 15 seats and only won 37 overall.
He told the gathering that he wanted to try and put a government together, leaving all options open except working with Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Féin.
It is understood that he said that a five-year term is preferable and that something “radical and different” is needed.
There have been suggestions in recent days that Fianna Fáil could seek to build a super grand coalition involving Fine Gael and the Greens, a huge majority that would not require others’ support.
There was also no challenge to Mr Martin’s leadership at the meeting — despite the bruising election results and recriminations in recent days over party strategies in the campaign.
Earlier, a number of new and returning Fianna Fáil TDs told the Irish Examiner of their opposition to a coalition with Sinn Fein.
There is also a larger view that Ms McDonald’s party should be allowed “at it”, said sources, after winning the popular vote in the election.
At the meeting, Mr Martin made a strong plea to be given a mandate to enter government and those present approved a motion to appoint a negotiating team.
Mr Martin, despite being under considerable pressure, did not face any challenge to his position at the meeting.
According to sources, Mr Martin expressed a desire to avoid a second general election and was backed by the likes of Mr McGrath, Thomas Byrne, and Darragh O’Brien.
Mr Martin was critical of Sinn Féin in his remarks, claiming its economic agenda poses a significant risk to Ireland’s open economy.
Ms McDonald said she has written to Mr Martin seeking a meeting about government formation, but has yet to get a response.
Meanwhile, the race to replace Brendan Howlin as leader of the Labour Party could be crowded as new TD Duncan Smith is considering a challenge.
TDs Alan Kelly, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, and Ged Nash are all understood to be interested in seeking to lead the party with its newly reconfigured Dáil team of six.
“There are people I respect in the party, in the local organisation, that I want to discuss that with,” said Mr Smith.