Fianna Fáil TDs have overwhelmingly rejected the offer of a partnership government presented last night by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.
Forty days after the general election, the leaders of Ireland’s two largest political parties - Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin - met for the first time to discuss the formation of government after a second failed attempt by the Dáil (Irish House of Representatives) to elect a new Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
Kenny has acted as Taoiseach of the 32nd Dáil since March 10 when he failed to be reelected as government leader in the first round of voting from TDs. Handing in his resignation that day, Kenny and his ministers have maintained their roles only in a caretaker capacity as the political stalemate continues.
Meeting with the Fianna Fáil leader last night, Kenny proposed a partnership government with Fine Gael and Independents, an unprecedented event in Irish history that would see the political parties from opposite sides of the Civil War merge in government for the first time.
As expected, however, Fianna Fáil TDs at this morning’s meeting of the parliamentary party refused outright the offer of partnership government.
TDs voiced overwhelming opposition to such an alliance with the Fine Gael party, which they feel was rejected by voters in the election on February 26. It is believed that they would support a Fine Gael minority government, however.
➜ WATCH: Micheál Martin TD addresses the media. The best interests of the Irish people are not served by a Government made up of Fianna Fáil & Fine Gael.Posted by Fianna Fáil on Déardaoin, 7 Aibreán 2016
Kenny and Martin met again this evening for a discussion that lasted just 15 minutes before talks broke up and in which Martin formally refused the Fine Gael offer.
No further plans for talks are in place before the third attempt to elect a Taoiseach next Thursday but Kenny insists that the offer for partnership remains on the table.
Fianna Fáil declared that they could not accept the offer as they did not believe it to be in the national interest, a claim which Kenny has argued against.
The TD for Mayo believes that the Fianna Fáil decision not to enter government was a “serious mistake” and “driven by narrow interests rather than the national interest”.
The acting Taoiseach stated: “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 Fáil has rejected this historic opportunity.”
Martin is believed to be continuing his efforts to form a Fianna Fáil minority government but has admitted that he would support Fine Gael if unable to do so.
Despite the opposition shown for the deal from Fianna Fáil TDs, Fine Gael’s own parliamentary party meeting today saw its TDs offering support for the partnership and backing Kenny’s decision to make the offer.
In a statement released after the meeting, Fine Gael’s acting chair Catherine Byrne announced that Fine Gael TDs and Senators supported the offer as “the best way to provide a stable and lasting Government to deal with the issues concerning people and the challenges facing the country”.
Following much speculation of a FF/FG coalition, Kenny and Martin finally sat down to talks yesterday after both failed, yet again, to receive enough votes to become Taoiseach. Only Kenny received a vote from any TD outside of his own parliamentary party - the controversial Tipperary TD Michael Lowry who is due to stand trial for tax offences next year.
The Fine Gael leader in fact received less votes in this second attempt losing the support of his former coalition partners, the Labour Party, whose TDs abstained from the vote.
Before voting began, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams announced he would be not putting his name forward for Taoiseach as he was unwilling to engage in the charade of voting when it was widely known that no deal had yet been forged which would see a government finally put in place.
Yesterday also saw the first female TD to be nominated for Taoiseach in Ireland in the form of Irish Socialist Party politician for Dublin West Ruth Coppinger. She lost the vote by 108 to ten.
The Dáil will make their third attempt to elect a Taoiseach next Thursday, April 14.