Fine Gael is now hoping Enda Kenny could win the vote for Taoiseach in the Dáil vote tomorrow, with just 57 votes needed to run a minority government.
The Irish Examiner understands the party has figured out that should Fianna Fáil abstain from the vote, a “minimum number” of TDs would be needed to see Mr Kenny re-elected.
Sources close to the talks said last night that Fine Gael will seek Fianna Fáil support to elect a Taoiseachtomorrow and not elect a cabinet until next week.
“The hope would be to get the agreement done with Fianna Fáil by the end of the week and then you can, over the weekend, finish the arrangements with the Independents,” a source said.
All Fine Gael needs is Micheál Martin’s party to agree to abstain, and they will have sufficient support to see Mr Kenny re-elected.
However, they would require some independent support to operate the minority government.
“In terms of a working majority based on a Fianna Fáil abstention, Fine Gael could do it with 57 seats,” a source said. “Fine Gael would like a little bit more, obviously, but that is the minimum number.”
The source added that the media black-out is aimed at establishing trust between the two sides, because there is a realisation that should the talks break down, the country would be heading back to the polls.
“Trust is going to have to be built up,” the source said. “Talks are resuming and today’s discussions were the big indicator as to what pace things can progress, and the hope is they won’t break down. Because if they break down, there is no plan B.”
It is understood that the first part of the talks concentrated on how a minority government would work.
Particularly, this would entail exactly what is expected of government, what would be expected of the opposition, and how best to maintain trust between the two sides.
Discussions have also turned to policy matters, and the main sticking points are matters such as Irish Water, the universal social charge, and health.
“It is going well but it is this or bust and there are crucial points upon which this could all fall down. The process is more likely to fall on policy,” the source said.
“Fine Gael have a clear position as do Fianna Fáil. There is a deal to be done on water charges. Is there ground upon which a deal could be done? Yes. My feeling is if people want to do a deal, then it can be done.”
Fine Gael maintained that they are the ones to lead a minority government.
On Sunday, Frances Fitzgerald stated a Fine Gael minority is the objective.
“Fine Gael have stopped saying we are ruling out a Fianna Fáil minority, in a bid to be conciliatory and not confrontational,” said a source. “We are trying not to be antagonistic. But Fianna Fáil have ruled out partnership, and Fine Gael have ruled out a Fianna Fáil minority.”
Sources also confirmed that should agreement not be in place come tomorrow, then postponing the vote is an option.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved