For the third time since a general election on February 26, Ireland’s politicians will try to elect a new taoiseach (prime minister) on Thursday of this week.
Two previous bids failed following an election result that rejected the outgoing coalition of Fine Gael and Labour but didn’t give any other party enough, including second-placed Fianna Fail with 44 seats, to form a government on its own or in administration with smaller partners.
Despite massive public pressure for old Civil War rivals Fine Gael which won 50 seats and Fianna Fail to agree an administration deal for the first time, both parties refused to talk to each other.
Instead, they attempted deals with small parties with a handful of seats, and with independent TDs who stretched across the political spectrum from the very right to the far left.
Finally Kenny, who has been acting taoiseach since the election, had a one-hour meeting last week with Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. The meeting was described as “frosty” by some sources, despite Kenny proposing a partnership government involving the two parties and independent TDs. Martin rejected the proposal.
Then, on Monday of this week, they reopened talks, but this time with a discussion on who would form a minority government.
Shane Ross said his group of six independent alliance TDs will come to a “speedy” decision once Fine Gael and Fianna Fail put their final proposals to them.
The alliance should know whether to support Kenny or Martin as taoiseach. However, Ross said he didn’t believe that would happen this Thursday.
“It will take beyond that, but at long last they are talking and good sense has prevailed,” Ross added.
Most TDs said a full-five year term of a new government was unlikely, but they would expect any agreement to put an administration in place for at least three budgets.
Independent TD Michael Healy Rae, who was elected in Kerry along with his brother Danny said, “I would hope that the road ahead will become clear. We have to know the practicalities of how it will work day by day.
“We don’t want the whole thing to collapse at the first hurdle. We want it to last a considerable length of time. We know it won’t last five years.”