herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

No constituency deals on the table as FG bids to form a government

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Fergal Phillips)
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Fergal Phillips)

Constituency sweeteners will not be offered to independents in an effort to secure their backing for Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, Fine Gael TDs have been assured.

Mr Kenny and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney conceded at a meeting of the party last night that there would be no 'Dart to Dingle' type deals with individuals during the negotiations aimed at building a minority government.

Instead they will make a series of policy promises in five key areas: health, housing, homelessness, rural affairs and disabilities.

"They made the point that there are too many independent TDs to be engaging in auction politics and that the talks will be more policy driven from here on," said a source.

Mr Kenny's office was last night drawing up official invitations that will be sent out to up to 16 TDs to invite them to "structured discussions".

The first meeting is scheduled for 10am today after five rural independent TDs said they want to "intensify discussions" with Fine Gael in the hope of forming a government "in the national interest".

Michael Collins, Noel Grealish, Michael Harty, Mattie McGrath and Denis Naughten issued a joint statement saying that having met with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail over the last 12 days, they believe Mr Kenny is "seriously determined to form a government" and his party "is in the driving seat".

The announcement is a serious blow to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who faced criticism at a meeting of his parliamentary party yesterday.

Communications

A number of newly-elected TDs, including Lisa Chambers and Anne Rabbitte, hit out at what they described as the lack of communications within the party.

It was noted that most TDs learned of the Fianna Fail team which is leading the negotiations for government through the media.

It was claimed that the party leadership had gone to ground while Fine Gael was allowed to repeatedly attack them in the media for engaging on government talks.

Mr Martin was also criticised for not appointing a female voice to the new all-party committee on Dail reform. The party has put forward Darragh O'Brien, Thomas Byrne and Eamon O Cuiv.

Sligo TD Marc MacSharry complained that "unelected people" in party HQ were making too many decisions.

Environment spokesman Barry Cowen was also forced to defend the controversy which erupted in the days after the election surrounding the party's position on water charges.

Shortly after his party meeting, Mr Martin met with Tanaiste Joan Burton to discuss the Labour Party's position.

A source said the meeting was cordial but no assurances were sought and none were given.

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