Fine Gael has dismissed as “very arrogant” Fianna Fáil claims that only Micheál Martin can be taoiseach in the next government.
Party sources warned that such language places in jeopardy the prospects of meaningful talks between the two parties this week. Mr Martin and acting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are due to meet tomorrow.
Senior Fine Gael figures close to Mr Varadkar have hit out at public comments yesterday by Fianna Fáil spokespeople, who said a proposal of rotating the position of taoiseach between the two leaders was not possible.
“The Fianna Fáil speakers on Radio 1 this weekend, including Deputy Robert Troy, were very arrogant,” a source told the Irish Examiner.
“Fianna Fáil is behaving like it won the election, planning for a government led by Micheál Martin, while demanding that Fine Gael must change its policies. It’s hard to see any basis for meaningful talks this week if Micheál Martin takes a similar approach when he meets the taoiseach.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, Mr Troy said: “I don’t think it comes down to personalities. But we had Richard Bruton saying that Fine Gael did not win the election and were not in a position to lead a government. Leading a government usually comes with the responsibility of a taoiseach and Micheál Martin is offering himself to lead an alternative government.”
Several senior figures on both sides said talk of coalition personnel or positions is “highly premature” but warned that, if a second election is to be avoided, relations between the parties will have to improve.
Mr Varadkar spoke with Mr Martin last Thursday and they agreed to meet. The acting Taoiseach will then report back to the Fine Gael parliamentary party to assess whether there is any basis to pursue matters further.
The Irish Examiner confirmed it was Mr Martin who called Mr Varadkar to seek to begin talks, and the latter is seeking parity of esteem if talks are to succeed.
“Fine Gael could only participate on the basis that there is respect for the 450,000 votes that Fine Gael received and the policies they voted for,” a Fine Gael spokesman said.
“That would have to be recognised in the composition of any programme for government and the composition of the government. We won 35 seats and are one of three roughly equal medium-sized parties in the Dáil. Our mandate is as valid as anyone else’s.”
Mr Troy conceded that Mr Varadkar, and not his party leader, is likely to be the Taoiseach to travel to Washington to meet US president Donald Trump as part of St Patrick’s Day celebrations next month.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has defended its decision to hold a number of public meetings around the country in the coming days in a bid to build momentum towards a left-wing coalition.
Donegal TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the rallies will reinforce the party’s argument that its participation in government was part of the mandate for change demanded by voters.
“It is important to report back to the people and get their feedback,” he said.
“Right now we are clearly moving towards another arrangement with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. We are not the one putting exclusionary obstacles in place. 700,000 voters are not to be respected. To say we are not fit for government is not respecting our mandate.
“That is absolutely laughable if they mean that is change. These two parties coming together, determined to coalesce, is an insult to the vote that just took place and I think particularly for Fianna Fáil, who claim to be a social democratic party, it is laughable the direction they are going.”
Mr Mac Lochlainn also denied that the Provisional IRA retains influence over the party.
“The IRA has gone and they are not coming back. That’s the reality,” Mr Mac Lochlainn said,