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Obstacles remain to forming government despite Fine Gael-Fianna Fail deal

Published 03/05/2016

Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin have struck a deal
Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin have struck a deal

Doubts are being cast on a new Irish government being formed this week despite a groundbreaking deal between the country's two largest parties.

Key figures being wooed by the biggest party Fine Gael to enter a minority coalition have warned "stumbling blocks" could push negotiations back for at least another week.

An agreement at the weekend between Fine Gael and arch-rivals Fianna Fail raised expectations that caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny could be re-elected premier and form a Cabinet by Thursday.

The long-time foes hammered out a pact after two months of political deadlock paving the way to a Fine Gael-led administration until at least 2018.

Under the agreement Fine Gael leader Mr Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, from the Opposition benches, would personally step in to resolve any issues threatening the minority arrangement.

Despite the deal, Fine Gael needs at least another six TDs (MPs) from outside the party to form a government.

It is locked in talks with two factions of 11 Independents.

Shane Ross, a prominent member of the so-called Independent Alliance, said difficult issues still need to be resolved.

"It will take longer than the optimists suggest because there are problems today," he said of the prospects for a deal by Thursday.

"We are working as hard as possible at great speed but I think it will take some time."

His Independent Alliance colleague Michael Fitzmaurice also dampened hopes of a government within the next couple of days.

"I think that is optimistic, being honest with you," he said.

"We will work 12 hours a day if necessary to get this done and get things right.

"But as far as I am concerned there is no deadline here."

Mr Fitzmaurice said "stumbling blocks" still had to be overcome in areas of health, agriculture and infrastructure.

One such stumbling block could be the insistence of Independent Alliance TD John Halligan on 24/7 cardiac care in the south east of the country.

Attention is already being focused on how long a new minority government will last.

Fine Gael will have to rule and Fianna Fail oppose without either of them undermining the other too much.

The parties, who swapped power for generations, baulked at the prospect of a "grand coalition" between them after February's general election split the vote like never before.

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