Fine Gael proposal aims to win Independents’ votes by boosting speaking rights

Fine Gael is willing to increase the number of ‘technical’ groups in the Dáil, boosting their speaking rights, in a move widely viewed as an attempt to win the votes of Independent TDs and smaller parties for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.

Fine Gael proposal aims to win Independents’ votes by boosting speaking rights

The proposals come as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil remain in a standoff about talking to each other on government options — while only talking with smaller parties and Independents.

Fine Gael released its proposals for Dáil reform yesterday, which include plans for increasing the number of technical groups and thereby giving smaller groups in the Dáil more speaking time.

The 24 reforms, which Fine Gael would back prior to another vote for Taoiseach, include relaxing the whip on Dáil votes; restrictions on guillotining bills; and more family-friendly hours in the parliament.

Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy, leading the reform proposals, outlined how the number of technical groups would be increased, but sidestepped questions about whether this was an attempt by his party to woo independent TDs for any government support or vote on who will be Taoiseach. Leaders Questions in the Dáil would also be extended to give opposition leaders more time and an independent budget assessment office set up.

But there are questions about why the plans come after Fine Gael’s five years in power and whether they are a last-ditch effort to win the support of Independents and small parties.

Mr Murphy said the changes would help shift the balance of power from government to the Oireachtas.

Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy
Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy

He and other Fine Gael TDs also defended Enda Kenny resigning as Taoiseach at Áras an Uachtaráin late on Thursday night without giving notice to the media. Mr Murphy and three of his Dáil party colleagues yesterday also said Mr Kenny still has their support.

Meanwhile, Independent Tipperary TD Michael Lowry says he will support Mr Kenny for Taoiseach at the next vote. After being absent at this week’s vote, he said he would support his former party colleague as Fine Gael have the most TDs.

Independent Tipperary TD Michael Lowry
Independent Tipperary TD Michael Lowry

Elsewhere, members of the Independent Alliance expect to meet individual Fine Gael ministers next week to discuss policies on rural affairs, health and disability.

Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes yesterday said there is an “inevitable logic” to the party and Fianna Fáil forming a coalition. Failing that, a minority government that lasts is best, he said.

But despite growing calls for talks to begin between the two largest parties, Fianna Fáil’s hierarchy and the vast majority of its parliamentary party remain opposed to any deal with its long-time rival.

Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes
Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes

Fianna Fáil is instead planning to contact a number of smaller parties and Independents again next week in a bid to further progress its reform and alternative government plans.

It is expected these meetings may include the Social Democrats, the Greens and a number of Independents who could prove crucial to support for a future government.

A senior spokesperson said the party is also likely to confirm its negotiating team next week.

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