Waterford Independent TD John Halligan has said he needs a deal on cardiac care for the southeast or he will not back a Fine Gael minority Government, writes Daniel McConnell, Political Editor.
Mr Halligan, pictured below, said that should he decide not to enter government, he will not stand in the way of the other five members of the Independent Alliance from signing up to a deal.
Mr Halligan made his comments during an appearance on RTE's The Week In Politics programme this afternoon.
The Alliance are to meet with Fine Gael ministers tomorrow at 10am, but Mr Halligan said today he has the support of his other five Independent Alliance colleagues despite pressure to support Fine Gael.
Mr Halligan said he was told by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar that the funding for other hospitals would be called into question if the issues at University Hospital Waterford were to be addressed to his satisfaction.
Fine Gael’s agreement with Fianna Fáil to form a minority government must now be accompanied by guarantees of support from at least six Independent TDs.
Senior Fine Gael ministers, speaking to the Irish Examiner today, said contacts with different groupings of independent TDs are continuing. They said they remain hopeful that a deal could be done in time for Thursday.
Speaking in Cork, Minister for Agriculture and Defence Simon Coveney has said he expects a government will be in place by Thursday at the latest.
Mr Coveney said he hoped that over the next few days Fine Gael can agree a partnership with independents.
Another minister said that Fine Gael is willing to compromise on many issues in order to form a Government, but insisted it would have to pursue its agenda as well.
However, several members of the Alliance said that a deal is only possible if Fine Gael gives unequivocal guarantees on their key issues.
Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath said he will only support a deal if he gets what he needs in terms of his priorities.
Michael Fitzmaurice played down the chances of a deal being done this week, saying there is “still an awful lot of work to do”.
The Alliance's six TDs are working to try to have an agreement in place within hours or days after the group formally meets Fine Gael tomorrow.
If that happens it will allow the arrangement struck with Fianna Fáil on Friday to kick in.
Discussions between some independents and senior officials across several government departments have also taken place in conjunction with the face to face meeting on Friday with Mr Kenny.
Everything from health services, increased spending on services for those with disabilities and the future of rural post offices have been discussed.