Separate talks on forming a Government between Independent deputies with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will "not be worth the paper they are written on" and "will go nowhere", until the two major parties begin their own face to face negotiations.
This is the view of Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish who said that until Fine Gael and Fianna Fáíl start talking to each other, no government of any composition can be formed, and the State risks being plunged "into yet another election".
Dep Grealish, as part of the group of rurally based TDs around Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughton; and the Independent Alliance's Galway East TD Sean Canney; are currently in discussions, with a view to forming a minority coalition government, with Fine Gael, and separately Fianna Fáil. This week has already seen policy discussions on housing, the environment, rural Ireland, and mental health.
With both FF and FG determined not to coalesce with Sinn Féin, and reluctant to countenance the thought of an alliance with each other, this leaves a main party governing with independents. However an alliance of Independent TDs and either FG or FF will still fall short of the 79 seats needed to form a majority administration. This means the support of whichever of the main two parties goes into opposition is essential on major issues, such as the Budget and votes of confidence, in order that the minority administration can function and survive.
"If Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil don't want to go into Government together, they will still need to support each other," Dep Grealish told the Galway Advertiser, "otherwise we will have another general election, but that will only throw up the same result as we have now. What do they want to do, have three or four elections before the year is out, until one of them emerges as the largest party?"
"Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael need to talk," said Dep Canney. "A minority government can work, but it needs the support of the other main party so that the country can have stability. That is the big challenge that has to be sorted out before programme for government is agreed."
Dep Canney said the discussions are "uncharted territory" for Irish politicans. He added the Independent Alliance had "not ruled out" who it would support in terms of it being FF or FG, but that this would depend on how discussions go regarding policy. He also said the Alliance "will not be there to support the bigger party, but to be in partnership with them, and there must be recognition of that."
Both deputies Grealish and Canney have said no taoiseach will be elected when the Dáil meets next Tuesday as it is "highly unlikely" agreement will be reached, as major issues still have to be debated. "We're a long way away from that," Dep Grealish said.
"Meeting with acting Government ministers, who may not be ministers for much longer, department officials, and Independent TDs means there is a lot of debate and a lot to be agreed," says Dep Canney. "It's going to take some time."
However concerns are rising that, with FF and FG still unwilling to do some kind of deal, the State may well face into another election, regardless of how Fine Gael's current talks with Independents go. Indeed, Galway city councillor Mike Cubbard, in a statement on Facebook yesterday said: "An election on May 20 is now the most likely outcome."
Dep Canney though does not forecast an election so soon. "We have a responsibility as Independents to affect change and what we are doing is influencing policy," he said. "Party political interests need to be set aside to create stability."