Independents who agreed to join government formation 'have not heard anything'

Independent TDs who agreed to join in government formation have not been approached by the three potential coalition parties in weeks.
Independents who agreed to join government formation 'have not heard anything'
Marian Harkin.
Marian Harkin.

Independent TDs who agreed to join in government formation have not been approached by the three potential coalition parties in weeks.

Leo Varadkar and his negotiating partners repeatedly stated at the beginning of formation talks that they wanted independent TDs to bolster the government's numbers from 84 with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green TDs, up to as much as 90.

Briefings and talks were held between negotiators and independent groupings such as the Regional Independents, convened by former minister Denis Naughten, which includes Cathal Berry, Sean Canney , Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry, Verona Murphy, Matt Shanahan, as well as independent Sligo–Leitrim TD Marian Harkin and Roscommon–Galway's Michael Fitzmaurice.

Now, one day away from the potential formation of government, these groups say they have not been approached by anyone about any role their groups would play, further talks on formation, or contingency planning if the vote fails.

"We have not heard anything," Marian Harkin said.

"Although others had rejected a briefing on the programme for government document, we did not, we contacted them for a briefing, they told us they would and we've had nothing since.

"I find it strange, they may or may not count on us as they will be four over the required number for government, but they had made it clear they would like independents to be involved, and they told us what they had in mind.

"We engaged fully, we were always interested in engaging.

"I suppose I would consider that it's certainly discourteous that no one has said they changed out minds or decided to hold off.

"I even asked them why they want independents involved during the talks, they said they wanted greater numbers to give greater flexibility and stability.

"They will decide when to come back and that's fine, but I feel its certainly not good practice to commit to people do certain things, make arrangements and not follow up.

I find that, to say it in the nicest way possible, it's not good practice, and has an underlying message, but I'm not going to interpret what that message is.

Likewise, Denis Naughten, whose group had backed entering the coalition, and had previously criticised the negotiations for how long they were taking, confirmed that his group has had no contact from any of the three parties.

"No contingency planning, no contact at all, good, bad or indifferent.

"It does strike me as strange, as the government are tight on numbers, but it's up to themselves."

One source told the Examiner that it became clear as formal negotiations continued that the independent TDs had become less important.

There had been no approach or backchannel contact, "anything they found out was from the media, and this has been the approach all along with two big parties, so it's not that strange."

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