Fianna Fáil TDs are split on whether a national government to tackle the coronavirus outbreak could work.
The party’s justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan said on Sunday that he could “go along” with a government aimed solely at dealing with the outbreak, which the Taoiseach said could be “unlike anything in living memory”.
Laois-Offaly TD Sean Fleming says that “disruption at the top levels” must be factored into any discussion of a national government.
Mr Fleming said that an all-party response to the outbreak was more important than changing government. Mr Fleming added that the needs of the biggest six parties in the Dáil to hold delegate conferences in the event of a government being agreed could also be a complicating factor.
“What is more important is an all-party response to this outbreak. It is essentially an emergency.
“I think people will want to see efforts being concentrated on this health emergency, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.
“Ard Fheiseanna must also be considered – they could be weeks down the line, by which time large gatherings may be outlawed.
“You could put it off until Coronavirus is dealt with.”
Privately, TDs within Fianna Fáil say that changing government mid-crisis would be “like trying to change a tyre while the car is moving”.
Barry Cowen also disagreed with calls for a national government. He said party leaders must continue to be briefed and updated directly by government on the fight against the virus.
Furthermore, talks should be intensified given the crisis, he told the Irish Examiner.
“Talks should be intensified to produce a lasting government. But there is currently no other mandate for Fianna Fail.
Mr Cowen said, in parallel with the government formation talks, party leaders should meet as a group and make decisions.
Nonetheless, the constitution gave the outgoing government the powers needed to continue to govern, he explained:
“The constitution provides for this in a [political] vacuum. The Taoiseach needs to keep party leaders abreast of what is happening [with the virus].”
However, a separate experienced party TD said a national government should be set up.
This could last six months and was “a reasonable response” to the virus.
The TD said this government could include not only the three main parties, but also the Greens and Social Democrats.
“This wouldn't be unprecedented. It would be to reassure people that the [unity] government is legitimate. There are going to be potentially devastating consequences for the economy. The different [party] manifestos would have different priorities.”
Limerick City TD Willie O'Dea declined to say whether he supported or opposed the idea of a national government. Nonetheless, the former minister added:
“Apart from the coronavirus, the last thing people want is an election.”