Taoiseach Enda Kenny could be gone from his post within months, it has emerged.
Mr Kenny will not lead Fine Gael into the next election and there is an increasing realisation that his tenure has been significantly shortened given his party’s general election result.
Plans are afoot to ensure Mr Kenny steps down in a dignified manner which avoids the internal bitterness of a heave, as exhibited in 2010.
At the same time, Fine Gael is aware of its disappointing election result and of the animosity among Independents towards Mr Kenny.
The news that Mr Kenny’s time at the helm is coming to an end will likely ease the decision of some Independents on whether to come on board in a minority government deal, sources have said.
“It will be a timing of his choosing but he is aware that he will not be leading Fine Gael into the next election and we have to prepare for that election being sooner rather than later,” said one source.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have made “significant progress” in their talks about forming a minority government, with a paper detailing how it would work said to be “near completion”, according to sources.
Following a request from Fianna Fáil to move the talks to a neutral venue, Fine Gael reached out to Trinity College Dublin, and the talks convened in Provost’s House, built in the 1760s.
The two sides convened in the Provost’s Library yesterday, with the venue booked for today and tomorrow morning, according to sources.
Sources indicated that discussions have been “cordial and productive”, but that key matters of policy have not yet been dealt with and agreed.
“It will be a case of nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” said one senior source, who sounded a positive note last night.
Fine Gael is eager to conclude talks with Fianna Fáil and a sufficient number of Independent TDs so to allow Mr Kenny be re-elected taoiseach.
Arrangements for Fianna Fáil facilitating the government from the opposition benches would have to be viewed alongside a policy framework document, work on which began last night, sources told the Irish Examiner.
Amid the uncertainty, President Michael D Higgins, who celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday, said he was “well aware of his responsibilities and capabilities” in this situation.
The President, under the terms of the Constitution, can refuse a request to dissolve the Dáil and can call a joint session of the Oireachtas and address it, should he feel compelled to do so.
Speaking at a conference in Dublin, Mr Higgins said he hoped whatever happened would be to the benefit of the Irish people.
Meanwhile, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has denied reports that her party was involved in talks with Labour or the Green Party about playing a role in government.
A swathe of politicians, past and present, played down the chances of Labour forming a part in the new administration.
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said the people of Ireland spoke during the election and rejected the option of Fine Gael and Labour in government.
He said he believed people would be upset by reports that Labour might form part of the next government.
Former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said he believed party members would be opposed to such a move.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved