Independents, Greens say could back main Irish parties in government

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 19, 2016 1:25 PM

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's Green party may be prepared to back a minority government led by one of the country's two major parties, its leader said on Saturday, although he noted that neither would be able to govern without the other's consent.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael party won an election last month but fell well short of a majority and was left without natural coalition partners in a fractured parliament.

Second-placed Fianna Fail is its only realistic option for forming a government, but the two are historic rivals and many in both parties are strongly resistant to a tie-up.

The two parties have not discussed the prospect of an alliance but have each sought support from smaller parties and independents who acknowledge they cannot put either into power alone but may be willing to support an eventual deal.

"If there is to be a minority government that in any way has a chance of working, there has to be a wide contribution in it," Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party, which has two seats in the 157-seat chamber, told national broadcaster RTE.

"(But) the pure maths of it is that it would still require Fianna Fail, in effect, to sign off on it or Fine Gael to sign off on a Fianna Fail minority, although that looks less likely."

The Greens, junior partner in the 2007-2011 government, are the only party not to have ruled out supporting a Fine Gael or Fianna Fail government. Both parties have also held talks with 13 independents, according to one of the lawmakers present.

If Kenny wins their support ahead of the next vote to elect a prime minister, expected on April 6, his depleted party of 50 deputies would still be well short of the 79 needed for a majority. That would leave it reliant on fellow center-right party Fianna Fail, which holds 43 seats.

"You have to have an agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail if it is to be a minority government but do we want to let the two main parties head off in their own direction while we shout across the corridors," said independent lawmaker Michael Fitzmaurice, part of the six-member Independent Alliance group.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans)