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Election re-run looms as Leo tells FF to talk to other parties

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin following the meeting. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin following the meeting. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin following the meeting. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The threat of a second general election continues to loom despite Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin meeting to discuss forming a government.

Immediately after the meeting, Mr Varadkar issued a statement insisting Fine Gael was "preparing for opposition" and encouraged Mr Martin to form a government with other parties.

The Fianna Fail leader told a private meeting with Independents that a second election could not be ruled out.

During the meeting with the nine-member Regional Technical Group, Mr Martin was told that the two main parties needed to agree to a coalition before serious talks could take place.

The Independents also said the only options available were a coalition involving Fianna Fail and Fine Gael or a second election.

Serious

Speaking after the meeting, Independent TD Sean Canney said: "We are trying to be positive and proactive to get things done for the good of the country. Today we demonstrated that we are serious about forming a stable government by entering these talks."

At a press conference, Mr Martin conceded that a new Taoiseach is unlikely to be elected when the Dail returns on March 5.

He also said he does not expect a new government to be in place for the annual St Patrick's Day trade missions.

Mr Martin said he told the Taoiseach that there is a need to put a government together to deal with health, housing and climate change.

"We have an obligation to meet the public's demand in relation to those issues," he said.

"People expect us to get stuck in, to form a government... people are saying to us on the ground to get stuck in."

He said the "so-called left alliance hasn't really made any progress" and a Sinn Fein-led government remains "a very, very unlikely scenario".

Last night, a senior Fine Gael source said that if the party enters government it would do so "reluctantly", and added that another election is still a possibility.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party will meet today to hear an update on the talks from the Taoiseach. Senior party figures said Mr Varadkar may not seek his party's permission to enter into formal talks with Fianna Fail at this point.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail TD Eamon O Cuiv criticised Garda Commissioner Drew Harris for supporting a PSNI report which alleges the Provisional IRA still exists and has influence over Sinn Fein.

"I can tell you that the IRA that was involved with Sinn Fein is not functioning. If they were, the police would be doing their job and arresting and charging people for paramilitary activities," he said.

Speaking on RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta, Mr O Cuiv also said it is normal practice for political parties to seek advice from non-elected people. He was commenting on Mr Martin's claims that Sinn Fein is run by "shadowy figures" in Belfast.

Failed

Separately, Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill said his party had "baggage" when it went into the Dail in the 1930s, and failed to rule out sitting down with Sinn Fein to talk government.

The comments came as Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty claimed grassroots members of Fianna Fail do not subscribe to Mr Martin's opposition to going into government with Sinn Fein.

"We're conscious that many people may not subscribe to Micheal Martin's position in relation to this at grassroots level. But that's up to them within their own party to deal with that issue," he said.