Ireland may have an acting Taoiseach (Prime Minister) for up to a year by some counts if no party is successful in forming a ruling coalition of 79 seats or more in the 157 person Dáil (Parliament).
There are some strong indications that a minority Fine Gael government may continue to run the country in an acting capacity with the abstention support on key issues by Fianna Fáil.
It is considered highly unlikely now that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, opponents for almost 90 years, will join together. Fianna Fáil rank and file are adamantly opposed to being the junior partner in any coalition after their major breakthrough to the mid-40s in seat numbers.
Fianna Fáil’s preference may well be to prop up the government by abstention on key votes before bringing it down in a year or so. There is no appetite at all in Ireland for another quick general election.
Fianna Fail also wants to institute parliamentary reforms which would make is easier for individual TDs or representatives to have more access and opportunity to speak. That would prove a highly popular move, say insiders, because the government of the day is long considered to have far too much power over the Dáil's proceedings.
March 10 is the key date when an election for Taoiseach will take place. All the major party leaders will be put forward, but Fine Gael is expected to end up with around 50 seats (there are still disputed counts going on) and will likely have the largest vote. Absent a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael government there is no other realistic combination for a majority government.
If that proves to be the case then Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny would become acting Taoiseach just before his annual visit to the White House for the St. Patrick’s Day period.