TDs jostling for their roles in cabinet

Divisions are emerging among Independent TDs over cabinet positions in a minority government.

It is expected there will be jostling for ministerial roles as government formation negotiations continued last night between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

At least five Independents are in contention for the newly created senior rural affairs ministry. Others are looking for ministerial roles in education, transport, agriculture, and health.

However, it is understood there will only be five positions, split between junior and senior ministerial roles.

A senior Fine Gael source said: “Ideally it will be up to them to decide who gets positions, the Independent Alliance for example may be given a certain number and it will be then up to them.”

Last night, Fine Fáil and Fine Gael negotiators were still fine-tuning the deal and there were differences on whether the re-introduction of water charges would require a Dáil vote or ministerial sign-off.

And although Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have all but signed off on the terms of facilitating a minority government, Enda Kenny’s party still has a long way to go to woo at least six Independent TDs to join it.

However, the party will be aiming to gain the support of eight Independents to have 60 members in government.

Parallel back-channel talks have been ongoing with Independents to secure their backing as the situation intensifies.

It is understood Denis Naughten of the rural Independents has been acting as a go-between for his group.

The former Fine Gael TD is now likely to return to the fold through a minority government deal and has been tipped for the rural affairs brief or minister at the Department of Agriculture.

However, a number of other names have also been mentioned the for rural affairs brief including Michael Healy-Rae, Seán Canney, and Michael Fitzmaurice — if they decide to go into a minority government.

Fine Gael is under pressure to address a number of sticking points raised by the Independents including rural broadband, health services, and economic issues.

In a bid to appease worries, a meeting has been arranged today during which Independent TDs will be briefed on the rollout of rural broadband which has been delayed.

Fine Gael must gain the support of at least six more Independent TDs, as Fianna Fáil will not sign off on any final draft government deal until it has been fully approved by Independents.

“We’re not committing when they only have a 52- vote minority government. It will have to come back to us after the Independents,” a Fianna Fáil source said.

The Dáil yesterday voted to adjourn until Wednesday at 10.30am, providing Fine Gael with another deadline to work towards. However, many Independents believe this will not give the party enough time to hammer out a deal with Fine Gael.

Mr Healy-Rae said: “There is not going to be a Taoiseach elected next week because they can’t just turn up to Independents and expect us to sign up.”

It is understood that members of both the Independent alliance and the group of rural TDs have major issues that must be addressed and are “very uncomfortable” with going into government.

Waterford’s John Halligan has fought for hospital services in the South East. He had a brief conversation with Leo Varadkar this week, but no headway was made.

Maureen O’Sullivan said it would be “difficult” for her to re-enter negotiations but she would be willing to listen to Fine Gael.

Meanwhile, a row among the two main parties erupted yesterday after Mr Varadkar was accused of making “self-serving” comments on negotiations.

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