Independents set to delay taoiseach decision until day of the Dáil vote

Independents engaged in talks with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are leaving any discussion on supporting a taoiseach down to the day of the vote.

It comes as the 15 Independent TDs — made up of the Independent Alliance and the five rural Independent deputies — met Fine Gael for a third day of round table discussions.

The talks yesterday centred mainly on political reform and health and will turn to the economy and finance today.

A redraft of a paper on housing, which was first discussed last week, is also expected to be finalised when the group meets in Government Buildings this morning.

Although the talks have been noted as “positive” and “productive” by a number of Independents, many last night voiced growing frustration that no figures have been put on the various proposals and promises being discussed.

After leaving another long day of talks last night, one Independent said: “How can we go back to our constituencies with all these promises if there are no costings?”

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will join the negotiations today, which many of the Independents believe could be pivotal in their decision making.

During talks yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told those around the table that he had reached out to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in a bid to start talks.

Mr Kenny suggested that both men sit down and talk today, however, Mr Martin wants to wait until next week when Fianna Fáil’s discussions with Independents are finished.

One Independent involved in the talks said members were “infuriated” that both of the main parties were still “playing tricks”.

“We are shuttling our way to another general election if they don’t sit down and talk,” the deputy said.

While another said: “We are going nowhere until the two big players sit down together.”

The Independent Alliance and many of the rural Independent TD are now expected to leave their decision on which party to vote for — if at any all — until late Tuesday when they finish talks with Fianna Fáil, or may even wait until the morning of the vote on Wednesday.

A paper put forward by Fine Gael on health yesterday promised 80 additional care centres across the country, and pledged to increase the number of therapists and other health professionals.

The role of community pharmacies would also be expanded.

Increasing free GP care to all those under 18 was also included in the paper. However, some Independent TDs said GPs, especially those in rural areas, are already struggling to cope with the increase in patients as a result of the free under-6s campaign.

The morning session of talks dealt with Dáil and political reform, which many around the table see as fundamental if the new ‘partnership government’ is to work.

Increasing the number of technical groups in the Dáil was detailed in bullet points in a paper as was the removal of the whip and Seanad reform.

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