The second round-table talks between Fine Gael and 15 Independents, and smaller parties, are to take place tomorrow.
The race to form the next government is entering one of its most crucial stages.
Caretaker taoiseach Enda Kenny and senior ministers will tomorrow sit down with the Independent Alliance, five loosely-linked rural TDs — the Healy-Rae brothers, Maureen O’Sullivan, Katherine Zappone, the Greens and Social Democrats — in a bid to secure support for the taoiseach-nomination vote in just eight days’ time.
The meeting is the second discussion with the TDs, after an initial, day-long meeting on Thursday led to a belief within Fine Gael that it was closing in on leading a minority government.
However, Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, and his negotiation team will separately meet with both the Independent Alliance, and the five rural TDs, on Wednesday (he previously met the latter last week).
On Sunday, rural TD and ex-PD, Noel Grealish, said the group — which also includes Dr Michael Harty, Michael Collins, Denis Naughten and Mattie McGrath — may not back Mr Kenny.
However, while the comment has led to speculation that Mr Kenny may be losing his grip on the vital support, others believe the remarks are brinksmanship to ensure the group has a key role in the policies of any Fine Gael-led government.
It is widely believed that the outgoing government party has the upper-hand in the rival talks — a matter that was accepted by Fianna Fáil TD, Sean Haughey, at a GPO Rising event last Friday.
However, while senior Fine Gael TDs believe Mr Kenny may contact Mr Martin, later this week, to seek support for a minority government on April 6, thereby preventing three more weeks of discussions, it depends on the outcome of talks over the coming days.
This week will also prove crucial to Labour, which, on Wednesday, will hold a key post-election meeting with successful and unsuccessful candidates, amid ongoing speculation surrounding Joan Burton’s leadership.
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