A 30-plus minute conversation between failed presidential candidate Peter Casey and Transport Minister Shane Ross at the weekend has fuelled speculation he is about to join the Independent Alliance.
The pair were spotted locked in an in-depth conversation on the fringes of the inauguration of President Michael D Higgins on Sunday night at Dublin Castle, amid repeated talk of Mr Casey’s desire to enter mainstream politics.
The conversation in the State apartments in Dublin Castle led to speculation yesterday that Mr Casey could tie up with the Alliance, of which Mr Ross is the de facto head.
“They were speaking for a long, long time and one wondered were they doing it deliberately to get people talking,” said one senior source.
“Ross and Casey were certainly engaged in each other’s conversation. It was more than just idle chit-chat.”
Since finishing second in the presidential election, Mr Casey has not only said that he wants to stand for Fianna Fáil in Donegal, he went on to say he wanted to lead the party. However, a raft of senior party personnel, including leader Micheál Martin and frontbench spokesman Niall Collins, strongly rebuffed the approaches.
It is not the first time the pair have discussed the possibility of working together. In 2016, Mr Casey pursued a Seanad seat and held talks with Mr Ross with a view to securing a nomination for the industrial panel, but he was unsuccessful.
Mr Casey’s rise in the wake of comments about the Travelling community and social welfare recipients has served as a wake-up call to the mainstream parties but a tie-in with the Independent Alliance would certainly be controversial.
When contacted, Mr Casey’s camp confirmed the two men spoke at Dublin Castle but attempted to play down the suggestions of a potential union.
A spokeswoman said Mr Casey used the chat to highlight his unhappiness about the decision in the budget to increase the 9% Vat rate and new drink-driving legislation which, he said, would have a negative impact on rural Ireland.