The parties’ negotiating teams will meet this morning for what has been billed as the final day of the marathon discussions in a bid to confirm agreement on Irish Water, housing, health and rural affairs matters central to each others’ interests.
The teams, which did not meet last night due to a scheduling clash with their respective parliamentary party meetings, are likely to conclude talks today before handing an agreed government deal to acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin this evening.
Both parties’ advisers were last night working on a draft agreement which would see Fianna Fáil ‘facilitate’ a Fine Gael-led minority government for at least three years.
It remained unclear last night if a Fine Gael bid to have this timeframe extended to five years with a review after three years would be acceptable to Micheál Martin’s party.
Should agreement be reached, the wording of the deal will be sent to the Independent Alliance, five-strong rural TDs group, the Healy Rae brothers and other Independents in line to play a role in the next government.
These Independents will take this weekend to review the file before being asked to sign up to supporting or joining a Fine Gael-minority government early next week.
While a number of Independents are continuing to show reluctance to joining with Mr Kenny’s party, it is believed Fine Gael will be backed by at least six more of the TDs — the minimum number required to form a minority government.
If this situation occurs, it is expected Mr Kenny will be nominated and re-elected as Taoiseach by Tuesday or Wednesday, before choosing his new cabinet.
It is believed Fine Gael backbench anger at a perceived rowback on Irish Water was tempered during its private meeting by the prospect of ministerial positions for a number of TDs, while Fianna Fáil TDs were broadly welcoming.
In a major breakthrough on Tuesday night, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s teams agreed to suspend water charges for up to 18 months while an independent commission, an Oireachtas committee, and a Dáil vote decided on the utility’s future.