Fine Gael focus on eight Independent TDs in bid to hammer out deal

Finian McGrath pictured at Leinster House ahead of Thursday's Dáil vote for Taoiseach.

Fine Gael are now narrowing their focus onto just eight Independent TDs to hammer out a minority government deal.

The move comes as Finian McGrath of the Independent Alliance demanded that six of the 15 cabinet positions should be given to Independents and others as part of any government formation deal.

Fine Gael received the support of both Michael Lowry and Katherine Zappone during Thursday’s Taoiseach’s nomination, bringing their support to 52 TDs.

Although they have left the door open to all Independent TDs as well as the smaller parties of Labour, the Greens, and the Social Democrats, the party need a core of just six more TDs.

However, they would be hoping to secure eight for a stable minority.

The Irish Examiner has learned that Fine Gael are now focusing on members of Independent Alliance and Maureen O’Sullivan, but also believe they could gain the support of two of the five rural TDs in Denis Naughten and Dr Michael Harty.

Fine Gael are due to meet with the Independent Alliance today, and it is understood the party are willing to offer a number of these TDs senior and junior ministerial positions in exchange for their support.

Mr McGrath yesterday made it clear that he would be expecting at least one-third of ministerial positions to go to those who support Fine Gael.

He told Newstalk: “The bottom line is the Irish people have voted, they have voted for a minority government, they have voted for change so as part of that change process we have to ensure that there will be senior ministers from the Independent block or the smaller parties at that cabinet table.”

“Policies are the key thing for me but I think we should be getting a third of the Cabinet seats between five and six that would be my personal view.”

Acting Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said it is “our objective” to give Independents seats at Cabinet.

Fine Gael focus on eight Independent TDs in bid to hammer out deal

However, speaking on RTÉ’s News at One he added: “It’s a bit premature in the discussions what Cabinet allocations will be confirmed.”

However, other members of the Independent Alliance said a programme for government and the mechanics of operating a minority government would have to be resolved before cabinet positions are discussed.

Michael Fitzmaurice said: “I want to see a path of a three budget strategy.”

Waterford TD John Halligan said that he would prefer to see a programme for government agreed before any discussion of ministerial appointments.

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