Fine Gael mull rotating taoiseach to get Fianna Fáil support

Fine Gael are willing to consider a rotating taoiseach arrangement with Fianna Fáil as part of a deal to form a government, party sources have said.

Following a Cabinet meeting yesterday, one minister described the vista for Fine Gael: “It’s devastating, there are corpses everywhere. We’ve got to take stock of what the electorate decided.”

Asked on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night whether water charges were a “red line” issue in any talks, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said Fine Gael “would be willing to talk about water, it’s a big issue for people”.

Under fire Taoiseach Enda Kenny finally broke his silence about his party’s failure to get re-elected last weekend, expressing his disappointment at the result.

He said: “Despite the disappointing outcome of the election, which did not return the outgoing Fine Gael-Labour Government, Fine Gael will be the largest group in the new Dáil and we are determined to play our part,” Mr Kenny said.

Following Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s demand on Monday for Dáil reform before any Government talks can begin, Mr Kenny said Fine Gael would do what it can to form a stable government.

This included a commitment to working with “other parties” which is a significant shift and leaves the door open to a deal with Fianna Fáil. Suggestions that he could work with Sinn Féin were rejected last night.

“We will engage fully and inclusively with other parties, groups, and independent deputies to ensure that such a government is established,” Mr Kenny said.

Fine Gael looks set to dump the policy platform designed for the general election, given it was rejected by voters, and a new set of policies will be developed in the coming days, as a basis for talks with other parties.

But Fine Gael now look set to open the door on dropping water charges in any government talks.

Senior Fine Gael sources last night said the idea of a rotating taoiseach should now be considered as a part of any potential deal with Fianna Fáil, after March 10 when the Dáil convenes.

It is expected that no one will have enough votes on that occasion to become taoiseach and talks between the two parties will have to begin in earnest.

Senior party sources now agree that its pre-election manifesto proposals will have to be dumped and replaced with some new policy programme.

Mr Kenny and his senior aides face a major dressing down from TDs and senators at the first meeting of the parliamentary party since the election, which will take place tomorrow.

That meeting will play a key role in deciding the make-up of the new policy document, but it would involve strong emphasise on Dáil reform, said a senior Fine Gael figure.

“We’re still the largest party, but must listen to TDs before deciding what’s next,” added the source.

But the recriminations continued yesterday as ex-TD Tom Barry, who lost his seat, called on Mr Kenny to resign, given the heavy loss of Fine Gael seats.

Sports Minister Michael Ring, in what was viewed as a criticism of Mr Kenny’s advisors, also said Fine Gael’s election campaign had been run by “Dublin 4 individuals”.

“These people had no clue about the issues affecting rural Ireland,” he said.

The party’s director of elections, MEP Brian Hayes, said he accepted responsibility for the party’s disastrous election slogan and campaign, accepting it was “Dublin-centric”.

Grassroots Fianna Fáil members have strongly ruled out a coalition deal with Fine Gael and would rather do business with Sinn Féin, provided Gerry Adams stepped down as leader.

Last night the Labour Party was facing up to the realisation of losing speaking rights in the Dáil after Aodhán Ó Ríordáin failed to be re-elected in Dublin Bay North. Their only hope of achieving the minimum quota of seven to retain funding and speaking time rested with Willie Penrose in Longford-Westmeath where a recount was ongoing last night.

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