Party leaders to meet today as government talks stall again

Government formation talks stalled for the second time in days last night amid growing concern “fundamental” disagreements over water, housing, education and rural issues cannot be resolved.

Acting taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last night held a phone call in an attempt to find a solution to the growing crisis and committed to speaking again today.

Despite claims on Thursday from Fine Gael acting agriculture minister Simon Coveney a deal could be agreed by today, the crucial government formation talks hit a major roadblock yesterday. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s negotiating teams emerged just before 6pm last night to say they have hit another stand-still.

As such, both sides now believe there is no hope of any deal being agreed before Monday, with both sides privately concerned any agreement may now be off the table.

Speaking to reporters outside the Trinity Biomedical Institute on Pearse St in Dublin, where talks were taking place, Fianna Fáil’s negotiating team admitted that 56 days on from the February 26 vote a clear deadlock remains.

“We’ve now reached a situation where there are a number of issues in respect of which we can’t reach agreement,” said team member and newly elected TD Jim O’Callaghan.

Asked if the stand-off has ended hopes of a government being formed, he added: “I don’t believe any problems are insurmountable. If there’s compromise on both sides problems can be resolved, but we have reached a stage now where we’ve been talking for quite a while and there are a number of fundamental matters that need to be resolved and haven’t been resolved as yet.”

Moments later, Fine Gael’s negotiating team echoed the remarks, with acting Transport Minister and team member Paschal Donohoe saying his party still wants a deal “if it’s possible”.

“I believe we are capable of dealing with the matters that are there, they are difficult issues for both parties and that is why we believe now it is appropriate at this stage that we get instructions and guidance from our party leaders,”. said Mr Donohoe.

“We in Fine Gael are very committed to doing our best here to reach agreement with Fianna Fáil, but we do have to recognise the mandate we have received from our voters and our party on a range of issues.”

Asked if talks will resume this weekend, he added: “If it’s possible to reach agreement we’re committed to doing so. We’ll be briefing the taoiseach and we’ll take matters from there.”

It is understood Irish Water remains the key problem and relates to Fine Gael’s ongoing insistence a new waivers and allowances system can address the matter, while Fianna Fáil continues to push for a suspension of charges until the next election.

Micheál Martin’s party is believed to be also seeking an international commission to be set up to examine the future of the controversial utility — a move Fine Gael deeply opposes.

While it was last night claimed mortgage reform issues and separate disagreements involving rural affairs and education matters are further stumbling blocks, there was growing speculation last night these matters have been put forward in a bid to claim the stand-off is not simply based on Irish Water.

Both parties election manifestos are broadly similar on the three areas, with the issues believed to relate to how much money is available for each sector.

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