Kingmakers: The independents who could help the bigger parties form next Government

While several independent TDs are keen to be part of a new coalition government and see their election promises implemented, they are biding their time as the bargaining begins.

A number of non-party TDs told the Irish Examiner that they are “absolutely” open to talking with others about how to progress their election wish-lists.

Left to right: Michael Healy-Rae, Marian Harkin and Michael Collins
Left to right: Michael Healy-Rae, Marian Harkin and Michael Collins

New or expanded groups for parliamentary speaking rights are also being formulated ahead of the 33rd Dáil sitting for the first time next week.

Former MEP Marian Harkin, elected for Sligo Leitrim, said she is “absolutely” interested in being involved in government.

“I don't like the phrase kingmaker. After being in the European Parliament for 15 years, it was all about compromise there.

My interest would be rural-focused, to try and drive policy changes to the regions.

The TD, who was previously in the Dáil in 2002 and set up a technical group for speaking rights, said she is currently in talks with other independents about options.

“You are either relevant or you risk being irrelevant. How do you deliver? The best way is by being part of a grouping that has a common cause or platform.”

Ms Harkin is close to fellow independents Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice, two returned Roscommon-Galway TDs who are seen as contenders for coalition talks.

Elsewhere, returned Donegal TD Thomas Pringle, a member of the group Independents4Change, said it is “incumbent” on deputies on the left to try and put together an administration. However, the group has not yet been in contact with Sinn Féin, which is currently leading formation talks.

Mr Pringle said his priorities for "change" are housing, health and rural Ireland.

"We need to get away from the market-driven response to these issues, which is what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil did for years."

A key player in any talks with independents could be returned Galway East TD Sean Canney. He is the only returned independent minister from the last coalition.

I will talk to anybody who has an interest in talking to me.

"It is important we have a stable government, not for months but for the next three to four years,” said the former Independent Alliance member.

His priorities, if he was part of a pact or coalition, would include tackling the housing crisis as well as the setting up of a pricing regulator for beef farmers.

Cathal Berry, a former army commander elected as an independent for Kildare South, is also being watched as a potential partner for coalition after campaigning about low pay for soldiers.

Elsewhere, the existing Rural Independents group from the last Dáil met and is considering whether it will support anyone.

Member and the returned Kerry TD, Michael Healy-Rae, told the Irish Examiner: “I have an open mind. The concerns I have include health and housing. But you have to also balance a budget. It is very difficult for a party to promise anything.”

Cork South West returned TD Michael Collins is also being touted as a contender for coalition negotiations. But Mr Collins has an extensive wish-list including a dedicated ministry for fishing, a rural resettlement programmes and resources for Bantry Hospital.

Both he and Mr Healy-Rae initially held talks to be in government at the start of the last Dáil with then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but they decided against going into power.

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