Fine Gael to hold last-ditch talks with Independents ahead of Taosieach election

Fine Gael are to hold a last-ditch round-table discussion with Independent TDs this morning ahead of a second attempt to elect a Taoiseach this afternoon.

However, a number of Independent TDs last night voiced fury that a document given to them last night was “aspirational and weak” and does not reflect their two weeks of discussions with the party.

Backbench Fine Gael TDs also raised issues with the document at a parlimentlary party meeting yesterday evening after complaining that they had no input into it.

There is speculation that a number of Independents may now vote against both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil when the Dáil resumes today.

The five Independent rural TDs and the Healy-Rae brothers are due to meet at 10am this morning to decide how to vote and discuss the draft paper.

The 15 Independent TDs who have been meeting with Fine Gael over the last two weeks were yesterday given a 122-page “foundation document” and asked to read over it overnight.

The document spans 16 different issues from jobs and rural development, mental health, children and youth affairs, education, and agriculture, as well as political and constitution reform.

It is understood seven of the Independent TDs met to discuss the document last night where they vented anger over a lack of costings with one describing it as a “copy-and-paste job” which did not include their views.

Independents John Halligan, Aisling Dunne, Shane Ross, Kevin Moran, Finian McGrath, and Sean Canney
Independents John Halligan, Aisling Dunne, Shane Ross, Kevin Moran, Finian McGrath, and Sean Canney

Cork South-West TD Michael Collins said he would be studying the document but added: “I am standing firm on a number of issues that concern the rural people of Ireland and if they are not in this programme or any programme I will not be supporting it.”

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said “it is very poor and extremely vague”, adding that issues including changes to the rural Leader programme had not been addressed.

Another Independent TD described the document as “aspirational”.

“We are not going to put our head on the chopping block by promising things we can’t deliver,” he said.

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath
Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath

Members of the Independent Alliance and the five rural Independent TDs will meet Fine Gael at 11am to discuss the partnership government document.

Details set out in the worked-up document are based on the 50 hours of discussions so far and include the appointments of a minister for Rural Affairs and a Minister for Housing.

A number of measures on housing and homelessness — including the establishment of an Oireachtas Committee on the issue — are also set down and would be implemented in the first 100 days of government.

There are also promises on additional funding towards the reginal road network, major changes to how the budget is decided, and promises not to shut down small schools.

Shane Ross of the Independent Alliance said: “It does reflect some of the changes that have been flagged in the media recently and it does reflect a change of attitude if it’s actually going to be implemented.”

[timgcao=Shane Ross of the Independent Alliance]ShaneRossTD_large.jpg[/timgcap]

In another last-ditch bid to gain the support of Independents, Enda Kenny yesterday promised Independents that he would meet with Micheál Martin today.

However, a spokesman for the acting Taoiseach said the logistics and time of this meeting are still to be confirmed.


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