An Independent TD has said he will not touch the mooted Fine Gael-led minority government “with a barge pole” after it emerged Enda Kenny won Katherine Zappone’s backing last week by promising to address abortion laws and introduce equality-proofed budgets.
Tipperary-based Mattie McGrath, a member of the loosely linked five rural TDs group, made the remarks as divisions continued to appear among Independents.
In a message on social media last night after days of speculation, the unaligned Ms Zappone said she secured specific commitments from Fine Gael in return for voting in favour of Mr Kenny during last Thursday’s Taoiseach nomination.
The commitments for a “promised change” include increased public service investment, more affordable childcare, and greater school diversity. They also involve moves to examine a referendum on the Eighth Amendment and to “equality-proof” future national budgets.
Ms Zappone said that while any formal position she may have in the next government — should it be formed — has yet to be discussed, these issues were pre-requisites for her giving support to Mr Kenny last week.
However, Mr McGrath told the Irish Examiner last night he completely disagrees with the issues contained in Ms Zappone’s deal and strongly suggested he will reject any government that implements her policies.
“More power to her, but it is a sad state of affairs. Kenny is a desperate man for power. I won’t be dancing to any tune to that melody. I wouldn’t touch that with a barge pole,” he said.
A number of other Independents, including fellow rural TDs member Michael Collins, are also believed to be strongly opposed to any deal on abortion legislation.
Meanwhile, the six-strong Independent Alliance, five rural TDs group, and the Healy-Rae brothers are due to meet this morning to decide whether they will continue to abstain in any future taoiseach nomination vote.
The Shane Ross-led Independent Alliance held a short meeting with Fine Gael TDs in Leinster House yesterday and had expected to be given an update on the party’s talks with Fianna Fáil.
However, it is understood that a number of Alliance members were frustrated at the lack of any significant progress 55 days after the election, and were disappointed at the response to its policy requests to date.
The five rural TDs group and the Healy-Rae brothers held a separate meeting in Dublin last night to update each other on developments
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