Micheál Martin lays down gauntlet to Independents ahead of Taoiseach vote

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has thrown down a gauntlet to Independent TDs about electing him as taoiseach, in a last bid to form a Fianna Fáil minority government.

Senior Fianna Fáil sources have told the Irish Examiner today’s vote will be the last opportunity for them to vote for Mr Martin and to support a Fianna Fáil-led minority government.

The sources have said that should the Independents not do so, the party will concede and begin talks to facilitate a Fine Gael minority government headed by Enda Kenny.

The high-risk move by Mr Martin follows a series of engagements by Fianna Fáil with Independent TDs.

One source said it was time for Independents to call Fine Gael’s bluff. The source also said it was unreasonable that Fine Gael would not support a Fianna Fáil-led minority government.

Talks between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on the formation of a government ended abruptly. A Fine Gael source said the party’s negotiators were “frustrated and disappointed” at what they said was the unwillingness of Fianna Fáil to engage on policy matters.

Mr Kenny told his party the Dáil will still make another attempt at electing a Taoiseach today, a vote expected to produce no result.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

Fine Gael sources said talks with Fianna Fáil broke off after a “reluctance” by Mr Martin’s side to discuss policies for a minority government.

Fianna Fáil, on the other hand, said that Mr Kenny’s negotiators were refusing to explain how many Independent TDs Fine Gael can rely on.

However, in an extraordinary move, Mr Martin also personally contacted Independents in an appeal to vote for him as Taoiseach and therefore support a Fianna Fáil government.

Party sources confirmed the phone calls came amid concern that Independents are “refusing to get off the fence”.

Party sources also said that if there is no movement to support Mr Martin today, that he will allow Fine Gael form a minority government under Mr Kenny.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney held separate talks with the Independent Alliance urging them to support Mr Kenny’s bid for power.

Two members of the separate Rural Independent group of five TDs held a ‘clear-the-air’ meeting over pints in McGrattans pub on Tuesday night over fears the group is about to split.

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