Independent TDs divided on Fine Gael deal

Independents are split on whether a deal can be struck with one of the main parties before the Dáil resumes on Wednesday.

After five days of extended talks with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the 15 Independent TDs still involved in discussions are divided on whether they will be in a position to support either Enda Kenny or Micheál Martin as Taoiseach next week.

Independent TDs will continue talks with Fine Gael next week but also have meetings with Fianna Fáil.

The marathon discussions between Mr Kenny’s party and 15 Independent TDs were due to wrap up yesterday afternoon, but it was decided they would meet again on Monday and Tuesday to tweak papers on issues such as health, education, and housing.

Leaving the talks with Fine Gael, which went on for more than 40 hours this week, Finian McGrath of the Independent Alliance said he believed a deal could be hammered out with the party on Monday or Tuesday.

However, one of the five rural Independents, Mattie McGrath, doesn’t “see any hope of any deal being done by Monday or even Tuesday for that matter”.

This was echoed by Michael Fitzmaurice: “I think it’s highly doubtful that we will be in a position on Wednesday to make a decision.”

Michael Healy-Rae said he “can’t foresee into the future like that” and would not say if he would be voting when the Dáil resumes.

Yesterday’s meeting focused mainly on the economy and finance.

The morning session focused around the facts and figures of the economy, with Finance Minister Michael Noonan and department officials going through projections around the amount of money the government will have in the coming years. USC and general taxation were also addressed.

It is understood that Fine Gael did not move from its position of changing the phasing-out of the USC.

Credit unions and post offices were discussed at length during the talks.

Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy, who has been involved in the negotiations over the past week, said: “There were discussions around what changes may take place if the Central Bank was in favour of changes in those areas.

“There is a view around the table that there can be an enhanced role for credit unions and post offices.”

He said they had “reached back” to papers discussed during the week to look broadly at how the details in them would be costed.

However, Clare Independent Michael Harty said the finer details still need to be ironed out and Fine Gael would be developing more complete papers over the weekend before presenting them to Independents on Monday.

“No costings have been put on the arrangements, but that is critically important, if there is no money to spend, the costings done mean anything,” he said.

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