‘Heated debate and extremely strong words exchanged’

There was a tense giddiness around the corridors of Leinster House, with TDs terrified and excited in equal measure about what might happen next.

As politicians stood up to speak on the nomination for Taoiseach in the Dáil chamber yesterday afternoon, there was a glaring emptiness where the six Independent Alliance members should have been seated. Heads craned to the doors at back of the chamber while fingers bashed away on phones, clearly trying to get the latest update on the manic scramble happening just metres away.

The sticking point was bogs. It seemed that neither Fine Gael nor the Independent Alliance could find a way out of the mud, and instead were slinging it across the negotiation table at each other as the clock to a vote on Taoiseach ticked down.

From early morning, Independent TDs, legal advisers in tow, had been locked in talks behind the stone walls of Government Buildings. One Independent said there was “heated debate and extremely strong words exchanged” as both sides tried to gain and retain ground. Meanwhile, the expressions on faces in the Dáil chamber — including that of Taoiseach-in-waiting Enda Kenny — became ever more anxious.

It was looking like Michael Fitzmaurice could not make enough headway on turf- cutting, the Independent Alliance could not sign off when one of their group was unhappy, and the word “election” was being mentioned in hushed tones.

‘Heated debate and extremely strong words exchanged’

Journalists began to swarm outside the chamber in a bid to catch a passing TD and there were bonus points for anyone managing to nab an Independent-on-the-edge.

Eventually, the Independent Alliance appeared, but there were more mutterings and whispers in sleeves as both John Halligan — who had been teetering over the issue of cardiac care in the South East — and Michael Fitzmaurice, remained outside.

With just minutes to go before the vote, Mr Fitzmaurice took to the airwaves, speaking to his local Shannonside radio station — a clear sign of where his priorities lay with regards to Mr Kenny and his minority government.

In the end, Mr Fitzmaurice abstained, while the five other Independent Alliance members supported Mr Kenny.

‘Heated debate and extremely strong words exchanged’

But the vote was not without a wobbler as rural Independent TD Noel Grealish, who only hours previously had been tipped for a junior ministry, abstained and put himself out of contention.

The Healy-Rae party was also at odds, with Michael abstaining and Danny voting against the nomination.

With the vote sealing Mr Kenny’s second term as Taoiseach, attention turned to ministerial jobs.

‘Heated debate and extremely strong words exchanged’

Mattie McGrath, who voted against Mr Kenny, still seemed delighted as he made his way into the chamber to hear news of the cabinet.

“Shane Ross is Minister for Transport. It’s great, we will have a Luas to Tipperary and everything,” he said.

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