The Republic’s newly-elected politicians have their first meeting in the Dail this Thursday with the intention of electing a speaker, or ceann comhairle, and a taoiseach.
Although they are likely to vote for a ceann comhairle, who for the first time will be elected by secret ballot, they are not expected to agree on a new taoiseach following the return of divided parties at the general election.
Enda Kenny, whose Fine Gael party won only 50 seats – well down on the 79 majority required to form a government – will continue as acting taoiseach while the parties continue to negotiate in a bid to form a new administration.
Fianna Fail, with Micheal Martin as leader, won 44 seats – more than doubling their numbers in the outgoing Dail – but they have also experienced difficulty in coalition talks with smaller parties and independents.
The bookies’ favorite – still – for a government is a partnership between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, although there are elements on both sides still opposed to it because of Civil War hostilities.
Shane Ross, who heads the Independent Alliance, which has six members, had talks with Kenny but he said later that he realized he was discussing arrangements with “a political corpse.”
Ross, who also had talks with Martin, stood by his comments on Kenny in an article he wrote in the Sunday Independent.
He denied that it was a cheap shot or that his comments had undermined the Independent Alliance’s negotiating position.
Kenny, accepting a taoiseach was unlikely to be elected on Thursday, said that he cannot “put a date” on when a government will be formed, but that one clearly had to be constructed and he would continue to work towards that goal.
Speaking to reporters at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, he said, “There is a process going on at the moment in terms of discussing with independents and groupings and so on like that in order to see what situation might arise from this.
“I am prepared obviously in my capacity as taoiseach to work for the formation of a government that the country deserves and that the people need.”
Although Fine Gael were continuing midweek to talk to smaller parties and independents, there was a growing view within the party that the talks were somewhat pointless as some form of deal involving Fianna Fail looked to be the only viable option for forming a government.
Meanwhile, Kenny, Martin, and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein are expected to be proposed for taoiseach, although there will be no majority agreement on any of them this week.
Full Dail returns: Fine Gael 50; Fianna Fail 44; Labour 7; Sinn Fein 23; Renua 0; Social Democrats 3; Green Party 2; Independent Alliance 6; Independents 17.