DANIEL MCCONNELL: After much effing and blinding a government deal is done — probably

It was a day of high drama yesterday in Leinster House and Government Buildings, writes Daniel McConnell

It was the day the big bad boys in Fine Gael ran out of patience with those pesky Independents and pulled their guns on them.

Enough was enough. It was time to lay down the cards and say whether they were in or out.

After three weeks of dealing with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael ministers, including Simon Coveney, Paschal Donohoe, and Simon Harris, had had enough.

After a long night of drafting by Fine Gael policy officers Mark Carpenter, Clare Mungovan, and Matt Lynch, the document was readied.

However, after giving the Independents little or no time to see a draft of the final agreement, Donohoe told they would have to decide by 4pm as the Dáil would need to be told.

Galway Independent Noel Grealish is said to have been quite irate at the attempt to bounce them into the deal. A considerable amount of effing and blinding ensued.

Things were made worse when the document leaked to the media, including our own Elaine Loughlin, within minutes of it coming off the printers.

Waterford TD John Halligan cried foul and accused Fine Gael of leaking it deliberately in order to make the deal harder to walk away from.

Waterford TD John Halligan
Waterford TD John Halligan

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Halligan said that, contrary to the spin, a deal was not yet done on University Hospital Waterford. He expressed annoyance that the name of the hospital was wrong in the draft document.

Halligan said he and other members of the Independent Alliance are disappointed that the draft programme for government was leaked to the media before they had a chance to read it.

He said it was “outrageous and unprofessional”, and no way to do business.

Two hours later, at about 4.15pm, in a meeting with the Independent Alliance, Coveney informed Lord Ross of Enniskerry and his merry men that Paul Kehoe was on his way to the Dáil to inform it a vote for taoiseach would take place today.

They went berserk.

“How fucking dare you do that,” said one Alliance member.

“Is this how it is going to be for the next five fucking years?” yelled another.

Coveney said the die was cast and the vote was going to happen.

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

The Alliance said they were prepared to work through the night but could not guarantee their ability to support the vote.

“Lads, you have gone off on a flier but we won’t be taken for a ride,” said Ross.

According to one source, so many expletives were flying round there was talk of needing a junior minister to catch them all.

Shane Ross
Shane Ross

At 4.30pm, Kehoe simply sought agreement from the Dáil to sit today at 12pm in order to accept nominations for a taoiseach, in accordance with the Constitution.

There was no agreement.

Meanwhile, in the battle of Government Buildings, a break in hostilities occurred and tempers were allowed cool, and when the teams reconvened, significant progress was made as they talked late into the night.

By 9pm, Halligan’s hospital demands had been met. He had secured a letter confirming funding from Michael Noonan and was happy.

Halligan , however, has to get the OK from his core group of supporters early this morning before he can give his final backing to the deal.

But as Halligan was going in, trouble was brewing around Michael Fitzmaurice over the issue of designation of bogs.

Fitzmaurice was less than pleased with the wording of the document and was threatening to withdraw altogether.

Some saw this as inevitable, given Denis Naughten, his constituency rival, being a sure thing to become the new Minister for Rural Affairs.

One of the greatest mysteries of the day was what Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae would do.

Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae
Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae

By tea time, it appeared he had hitched his wagon to Naughten’s rural star.

As we went to print he was heading into another meeting, but had not yet made up his mind to do a deal.

He said he would make his mind up this morning.

After 70 days, we will finally get a government today.

Probably.

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