Election looms amid Fianna Fáil dissent over coalition deal

The likelihood of a second general election this year has risen significantly as leading figures in Fianna Fáil intensified their opposition to the proposed “grand coalition” with Fine Gael.

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who becomes a caretaker leader today, has talked to his Fine Gael ministers about the issue of potential talks with Fianna Fáil.

Mr Kenny and his ministers met for two hours yesterday, discussing government options ahead of the first day of the new Dáil today.

One Fine Gael source confirmed that Mr Kenny told those gathered that he had done what was asked of him in talking to smaller parties and Independent TDs about government options.

It would now be necessary to talk to other party leaders, according to a senior source.

One minister said at the meeting that each of the four main party leaders should be asked in for talks with Mr Kenny, including Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin.

Separately, Mr Kenny assured his TDs at a parliamentary party meeting in Leinster House last night that no talks or communication have yet taken place with Fianna Fáil.

Senior Fine Gael figures have expressed caution about the possibility of working with Fianna Fáil in government.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he was against the idea of a “rotating taoiseach” as such an option would not help form a stable government.

In what is being seen as a victory for Fianna Fáil, the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night unanimously approved a proposal by Mr Kenny on Dáil reform.

He proposed the immediate establishment of an all-party Dáil committee to be chaired by the incoming ceann comhairle to discuss and agree further reforms in the way the Dáil operates.

Fine Gael said the process of progressing Dáil reform should begin immediately and should happen in parallel with ongoing efforts to form a stable government. Fianna Fáil has insisted such reforms happen before any talks about forming a government take place.

Mr Martin will submit a motion on setting up a sub-committee on Dáil reform — to be chaired by the new ceann comhairle — to come back within a month after considering all party proposals on overhauling how the parliament works. Fianna Fáil believes the motion will have the support of other opposition groups today.

Opposition to the idea of a grand coalition has intensified within Fianna Fáil.

Eight of Mr Martin’s most senior TDs have specifically ruled out cutting any deal with Fine Gael — risking the possibility of a second election being called.

Barry Cowen, Willie O’Dea, Seán Fleming, Robert Troy, and Dara Calleary have in the last 24 hours repeated the party’s position that the prospect of a grand coalition is not on the cards.

Senior figures such as Éamon Ó Cuív, Niall Collins, and Thomas Byrne have also said there is no possibility of any deal with Fine Gael over the coming weeks.

Fianna Fáil insists that an alternative minority government involving smaller parties and Independents is its only focus. However, the situation means if there is no change in position, Fianna Fáil faces either seeking an unstable minority coalition, being forced to backtrack into a Fine Gael deal, or risking a second election being called.

Responding to Tuesday’s story in the Irish Examiner, Mr Cowen said his party has zero interest in such a proposal. “We cannot break the greatest promise we gave, which was not to go into government with Fine Gael, in the first week of the Dáil,” he told RTÉ radio.

“Fine Gael believes it is all about sharing power, about the trappings of power. I don’t believe they get it. There’s no doubt what the public demanded was change.

“That’s our priority, that’s the mandate we’ve been afforded, we want to explore that mandate.”

Asked about the same situation yesterday, Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea said: “No, my view is still the same, I do not favour a grand coalition with Fine Gael.” He rejected any deal being struck.

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