Fine Gael will only go into Government with Fianna Fáil if a third party is also involved, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.
Confirming to the Irish Examiner that he and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin are working towards producing a joint paper on Monday, Mr Varadkar said any new government would need a third party to give it “legitimacy and authority”.
In his most wide-ranging comments yet about the process of forming a government, Mr Varadkar said that when the election happened two months ago, "the view of my party, Fine Gael, was that we would go into opposition".
However, he said the failure of other parties like Sinn Féin to form a government means he is now willing to return to power.
“Since then, the other parties have been unable to form a government. And as a consequence of that we feel we can't leave the country down. And that's why we are willing to consider participating in government again,” he revealed.
“Those negotiations with Fianna Fáil are underway. We meet again, our teams will meet again anyway on Monday. We would talk to you in a position to agree a joint paper. And we would then seek the support of a third party, The Greens, Social Democrats, Labour,” he said tonight.
But he made clear that he will only enter power if a third party and not just a group of independent TDs is involved.
“I'm firmly of the view, that if Fine Gael is going to participate in the next government, we need a third party. We can absolutely work with independents as we did for the past four years, and very successfully.
“So we're totally up for working with independents, including independents from the regional independent group, some very good people there. But I'm firmly of the view that if Fine Gael is to participate in the next government, we will have to have a third party in there to make sure that we have the numbers and also I think the broad base that's needed to guide the country through the next couple of years.” the Taoiseach said.
Mr Varadkar said that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael together won 43% of the vote in the last election, and that's not enough for a stable government.
“Now I think we need a broader base than that, to have the legitimacy and have the authority to govern the country well over the next four years and more so than ever, this country is going to need good government,” he said.
Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that it is “far too early” to be discussing who should be Taoiseach in the event of a coalition between his party and Fine Gael.
“Whatever emerges has to reflect the election result,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One. "The key issue is to get an agreed agenda and policy platform, then the focus can be on rebooting the economy, and tackling health, housing and the environment.
"There has to be parity of esteem," he added. "All parties had worked together on Covid-19 and had agreed not to play party politics.
“We have not tried to outdo each other.”