Ministers warn Kenny that it's time to cut a deal with FF
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is being urged by senior ministers to "drop the charade" of trying to form a government with independents and start dealing directly with Fianna Fail.
There is growing concern within Fine Gael that Mr Kenny has wasted the past 10 days trying to impress smaller groups with proposals for political reform without making any progress towards a new coalition.
Mr Kenny met with the Independent Alliance, Social Democrats and a number of other TDs yesterday in the latest round of negotiations aimed at securing their support for a Fine Gael-led government.
But senior party sources admit that a coalition involving just independents is highly unlikely, and an approach will have to be made to Fianna Fail ahead of the Taoiseach's trip to Washington for St Patrick's Day.
"It would be a high-risk strategy to leave for the States next week and leave a vacuum. Kenny has to leave with a game plan," said one source.
Speaking in Brussels yesterday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said after tomorrow's expected Dail deadlock the situation will "evolve... into discussions with Fianna Fail, and then we'll see where that goes".
The biggest blockage to a deal between the two parties appears to be whether it would be a coalition government or a minority arrangement.
Fine Gael ministers don't trust Fianna Fail to support them from the Opposition benches for any substantial period of time, while Micheal Martin is said to be weary of a coalition - as Sinn Fein would become the main opposition party.
It's anticipated that Mr Kenny will put in place a negotiation team in the coming days - which will include Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney and Simon Harris.
After their meeting with Mr Kenny yesterday, the Social Democrats said they made it clear that the "significant crises" affecting people cannot be forgotten while conversations about the make-up of the next Dail are taking place.
"We suggested an All-Party Forum on Political Reform, which would be agreed before the election of a Taoiseach, and he reacted positively to this suggestion," co-leader Stephen Donnelly said.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has called for the Dail to continue debating issues "rather than shutting up shop" while coalition negotiations take place.
"We, as TDs, might not be able to agree on who should be the next Taoiseach, but we can all agree that there are crises going on that need urgent action," he said.