Irish PM says not considering independent MPs for next coalition

 24 Jan 2016 - 0:00

Irish PM says not considering independent MPs for next coalition
Enda Kenny


By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN: Ireland’s senior coalition party has not held discussions with any independent candidates about forming a government should the current coalition fall short of a majority at forthcoming elections, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Saturday.

While Kenny’s Fine Gael party holds a big lead in opinion polls ahead of elections, which are expected to be held late next month, its junior partner Labour is struggling and the parties are currently a few percentage points away from re-election.

With no obvious alternative coalition, Kenny could lead a minority government if the government parties fall short or they could reach an agreement to form a majority with some of the large bloc of independent deputies expected to be elected.

“There is no discussion taking place between Fine Gael and any independents,” Kenny told reporters at his party’s annual conference.

“I’ve set my stall very clearly, the proposition to the people will be to re-elect the Fine Gael/Labour government.”

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said earlier on Saturday that there wasn’t a “hope in the world” of Fine Gael winning an overall majority, meaning the party needs Labour’s popularity to pick up if they are to return as a two-party administration.

Ireland has been run by coalition governments since the late 1980s, occasionally successfully relying on deals with independent candidates to secure a majority in parliament.

Kenny, who is expected to name the date of the election after his coalition partners hold their annual conference next weekend, added that if he was re-elected as prime minister, he would stay in the position for a full five-year term.

“If I’m privileged and honoured to be elected Taoiseach (prime minister), I would serve a full term and that’s it,” Kenny said.

(Editing by Digby Lidstone)