Second election moves a step closer as FG-FF coalition talks collapse
A second general election may yet be on the cards after talks about a coalition between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael collapsed.
Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin held a second meeting in two days yesterday - but it ended after just 10 minutes.
Mr Martin said afterwards Fianna Fail had rejected the idea of a 'partnership government'.
The Fianna Fail leader has claimed that acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny took the prospect of a minority government "off the table", essentially threatening that it was a coalition of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and independents or a second election.
This has been vehemently denied by Fine Gael.
Mr Martin said the "best interest of the Irish people are not served by a coalition by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael".
He said Fine Gael wanted the parties "lumped together" but the idea of a government with over 100 TDs was "not healthy".
Mr Martin said there are "questions around the integrity" of Fine Gael's offer and that the previous 24 hours had "left a lot to desired".
In a statement last night, Mr Kenny said a partnership government would have reflected the way people had voted on February 26 and "respective mandates of both parties and independents".
"Ireland needs a stable and lasting government to meet the many national and international challenges facing the country.
"Fine Gael's preferred option of a full partnership is the best option for providing the necessary stability and it is very regrettable that Fianna Fail has rejected this."
His ministers went further, claiming it was an "historic opportunity" missed.
"It appears to us that the national interest at this point in the Fianna Fail response has not got enough consideration," acting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said.
She said the country needed a stable government to deal with the challenging issues facing it.
Ms Fitzgerald branded Mr Martin's claim that the offer appeared to be "choreography" by the Taoiseach as "nonsense".
"It was an absolutely genuine offer that was put on the table in good faith," she said.
Acting Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney described the situation as "a setback", adding: "Fianna Fail haven't even given a day to consider it."
However, Mr Coveney said that Fine Gael would now reassess the situation and while the offer remained open, they would continue working with independents.
Acting Health Minister Leo Varadkar was asked if a failure for a new Taoiseach to be voted in next week would lead to a fresh election.
"If the Dail doesn't elect a Taoiseach on Thursday it doesn't automatically trigger a general election and we'll continue the work that we are doing to try to provide a government.
"Fine Gael has put enormous effort in the last few weeks to form a government, initially with the independents and other parties.
"We made a really historic offer yesterday to Fianna Fail and independents to form a government and that work will continue.
"We're very disappointed at the haste at which this offer was refused, but it does still stand and we'll continue to keep our door open to Fianna Fail and the Independents."
Fianna Fail TDs have stood by their decision.
Eamon O Cuiv said: "I think it's now accepted or, at least I hope it is, that there will be no Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition. Sometimes it takes a while for the truth to sink in.
"I noticed Enda Kenny is still clinging forlornly to the hope that that's going to happen."