Independent TDs may hold the key to government formation

Two groups of independent TDs will decide next week whether to support a Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party government.
Independent TDs may hold the key to government formation

Two groups of independent TDs will decide next week whether to support a Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party government.

The group of eight regional TDs - Cathal Berry, Sean Canney, Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry, Verona Murphy, Denis Naughten and Matt Shanahan - held what they called a "constructive" meeting with the leaders of the three parties on Thursday, but will decide on whether or not to support the three parties next week when they see the Programme for Government.

A statement from the group said that they "are available to engage further with the three parties to bring about a stable Government and an economic programme that will secure a strong future for our country, its regions and rural Ireland", with convenor Denis Naughten saying that the group will make up its mind after seeing the Programme for Government.

"We have been told by the party leaders that we will be updated on how the talks progress over the weekend, and we will examine the deal when it is finished," he said.

Mr Naughten said that the group would know when the document is finished whether they can co-exist with the Green Party. Members of the group have raised fears previously that moves to protect the environment could damage rural Ireland, but Mr Naughten said that the "proof of the pudding will be in the eating".

Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten

Another group of independents - Marian Harkin, Michael Fitzmaurice and Michael McNamara - met with the parties on Wednesday with Ms Harkin saying that the meeting was about "process more than content". The group was told that it would be given the Programme for Government document next week when it is finalised.

If they support the government, the TDs would be able to raise questions and receive briefings from ministers, though Ms Harkin said there was no discussion of ministerial roles or a formal involvement in the government.

Sources say that it is unlikely that any of independents will be offered ministries and the deal will see the TDs support the government from the opposition benches while maintaining access to ministers. In exchange, the Programme for Government will include specific measures to cater to rural Ireland.

Ms Harkin said that the group was "involved in the process, but not the core process" but said she would like to see the document "deliver on national issues of critical importance" and awaited further clarity on the group's ability to influence its implementation.

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