Stalemate on the cards as negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil break down

Recriminations resurfaced last night during government formation talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil after both sides spent the day scrambling to lock down the support of Independents.

A breakdown in the talks late last night is expected to result in a further stalemate when another vote for Taoiseach goes ahead in the Dáil today.

However, efforts on both sides stalled suddenly after disagreement ensued between the parties’ negotiating teams.

Fine Gael was pressing for Fianna Fáil to move on and discuss priority policies for a minority government, after a day of confusion.

“We were meant to be getting to policies, but there was an unwillingness on the part of Fianna Fáil. That leaves us frustrated and disappointed. We’re not sure where the process will go from here,” said a party source.

Fianna Fáil sources, on the other hand, were annoyed over Fine Gael’s reluctance to reveal how many Independents they could rely on for a minority government and how such an administration would work.

Its negotiating team repeatedly told Fine Gael there was no point in discussing policies until the exact number of Independents backing Enda Kenny and minority government was made clear.

While Fine Gael initially said it had eight, it is claimed this figure dropped to less than six, partially resulting in the talks breaking down and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin calling Independents last night asking them to confirm how they will vote.

Fianna Fáil believes a minority government led by it is still feasible because there has been movement away from Mr Kenny.

Fine Gael had been expecting to open discussions with Fianna Fáil at 8pm on policy issues for the first time. Key stumbling blocks between the two, including water charges and the future of the universal social charge, were expected to be raised at the meeting. This was cancelled.

Mr Kenny told his parliamentary party last night during a brief meeting that another vote for Taoiseach, the third since the general election, would take place today. It is understood that some Fine Gael members raised the issue of postponing the vote, if there is no solid agreement in place today for a minority government.

While Mr Kenny told TDs and senators that talks with Fianna Fáil were “cordial”, this was before the talks process came to an abrupt halt later. The need to retain Irish Water was also discussed at the party meeting, with TDs stressing they would not back down.

The meeting heard that Fianna Fáil is reluctant to commit to abstaining in any vote for Taoiseach, a process that could allow Enda Kenny win enough votes.

However, Mr Martin’s party won’t do this unless Mr Kenny has tied down enough support from Independents for a Fine Gael-led minority government to be formed.

Senior figures in both parties also moved to shore up support for Mr Kenny and Mr Martin yesterday, in their own efforts to lead a minority government.

Fine Gael dispatched officials to Waterford to try and bring back Independent TD John Halligan into the government talks, after he walked out over not being able to get a commitment for 24- hour cardiac care in his local hospital.

Mr Martin also made personal contact with Independents and discussed their needs, but no specifics were offered to the TDs, as he sought their support for him as Taoiseach and for a Fianna Fáil-led government.

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