Fianna Fáil has decisively rejected an offer of a coalition government with Fine Gael and Independents but discussed abstaining from the next vote for Taoiseach to allow Enda Kenny to win the vote.
However, a number of party TDs have left the door open on the possibility of entering a coalition with Fine Gael, while others are readying themselves for a general election.
Fianna Fáil TDs and senators rejected an offer for a grand coalition from Mr Kenny at a parliamentary party meeting yesterday.
Several TDs afterwards admitted that some kind of decision on a vote would now have to be agreed by next Thursday as the public was getting impatient.
Senior Fianna Fáil figures revealed that, given the rejection of the coalition offer, the focus will now return to who can win the most votes to form a minority government next week.
TDs, privately accepting Fianna Fáil will not have the numbers to do this, are examining if a quid pro quo agreement would allow them abstain on the next vote for Taoiseach in exchange for getting their policies implemented by a Fine Gael-led minority government.
Such a scenario would see Fianna Fáil stay out of the third Taoiseach vote next Thursday. If Mr Kenny then secures enough Independent votes, believed to be at least seven, he would win the Dáil vote. Fianna Fáil sources say Mr Kenny, after securing that moral victory, would then be allowed to attempt to form a minority government.
However, a senior Fianna Fáil TD upped the stakes in the government formation talks yesterday, saying he does not believe voters will blame his party for the crisis and that “maybe the public will thank us” if a second election is called.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Limerick TD Niall Collins confirmed he told the meeting a second election may not be the worst option.
While stressing he is not “advocating” a return to the polls and that “nobody wants a second election”, Mr Collins said if it happens he does not believe voters will blame his party for what has happened or that the February 26 “election narrative” will be repeated.
“We were elected on our policies, which includes not going into power with Fine Gael,” he said. “Maybe the public will thank us.
“The point I was making was this: The one certainty in politics which faces all of us is that there is always another election down the road. It could be in a month — that is possible — or in five years, but we were elected on our policies.”
The meeting saw a majority of TDs and senators back leader Micheál Martin’s view that Mr Kenny’s “partnership” deal should be rejected — with agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív and social protection spokesman Willie O Dea particularly vocal. Finance spokesman Michael McGrath is believed to have asked how supporting a minority government would work.
It is understood TDs John McGuinness and Marc Mac Sharry are in favour of a coalition and national government respectively, while health spokesman Billy Kelleher and children’s spokesman Robert Troy believe some deal may be needed due to the numbers involved but are happy to back the party’s decision to reject Mr Kenny’s offer.
Newly elected TDs John Brassil and Fiona O’Loughlin told the meeting options needed to be kept open, while Jackie Cahill said it is “too soon to close off all options”.
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