We’ll back Kenny if he gets support of eight Independents, says FF
Micheal Martin is to tell Enda Kenny he must win the support of at least eight Independents as precondition for Fianna Fail “facilitating” a Fine Gael-led minority government.
At a Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting last night, Mr Martin was also told by his members to “put nothing in writing” if he reaches agreement with Mr Kenny.
However, central to any agreement between the two parties will be an onus on Mr Kenny to secure the support of at least eight Independents.
This will bring Fine Gael and Independents’ combined support to 58 TDs and will allow Fianna Fail to abstain from certain votes if a deal is reached on forming a minority government.
The move comes after Mr Martin abandoned plans to lead the next government after failing to win the support of any Independent TDs during today’s vote for Taoiseach.
Mr Martin received no additional support during yesterday’s vote despite warning Independents it was their last opportunity to remove FG leader Mr Kenny from office.
But the FF leader immediately dug in his heels in relation to water, as he accused FG of acting in an “unhelpful and provocative” manner after the party passed a motion this week reaffirming its commitment to a national utility.
Despite admitting that the future of water is “not the single most important issue facing our country”, Mr Martin indicated that his party’s position to suspend charges remains.
He demanded an investigation into the money spent by Irish Water on a “post-election lobbying campaign” designed to prevent its abolition.
“The post-election lobbying campaign by this state company is unprecedented in our history. It is a total waste of public money and of the legitimate balance of powers between parliament and State companies,” Mr Martin told the Dail.
Senior sources in both parties now admit that the ability to form a stable government hinges significantly on whether a deal can be reached on water.
Fine Gael wants to maintain charges and the public utility – while Fianna Fail is adamant charges must be suspended and Irish Water replaced with a slimmed-down body.
As expected, yesterday’s vote for Taoiseach – which took place 47 days after the election – proved inconclusive.
Mr Kenny did however secure the support of Independent TD Katherine Zappone, as 14 other Independent TDs abstained from the vote and withdrew from the talks.
After the vote, Mr Kenny extended an invitation to Mr Martin to re-open talks between the two main parties on forming a government – just hours after talks between the two parties’ negotiation teams broke down.
Mr Martin addressed his own TDs on two occasions yesterday, as questions were raised internally over his decision to issue the ultimatum to Independents.
FF negotiator Charlie McConalogue admitted last night that Mr Martin’s defeat meant the party is giving up on hopes to leading a minority government.
The Herald has learned that a claim by FG during the negotiations – that the party was on the cusp of securing the support of six Independents – prompted Mr Martin’s gamble.
A senior FF source said the claim “contradicted strongly” what Mr Martin was being told privately by Independents about their voting intentions. During his speech following the vote, Mr Martin made a thinly-veiled swipe at Independents.
“It is not unreasonable to ask that people state who they are willing to support. Many very candid positions have been stated in private which have yet to be repeated in public,” he said.
In a further boost for Mr Kenny, there were indications last night that Labour is moving to support the FG leader at a future vote for Taoiseach.
A source said if Fine Gael agreed to demands “important to us a party”, Labour’s seven TDs may support Mr Kenny.
In his own speech to the Dail, Mr Kenny said he respected the rights of Independent TDs to abstain. The decision had been made earlier in the day at a meeting of 14 Independents in Agriculture House.