Kenny says government deal could be 'tonight or tomorrow morning'
Caretaker Taoiseach Enda Kenny has declared a new minority government could be "signed off tonight or tomorrow morning".
His Fine Gael party is locked in talks with two factions of Independents to form an administration, more than two months after the country went to the polls.
Fianna Fail agreed at the weekend to effectively support a Fine Gael-led minority government from the Opposition benches in return for some concessions.
The deal, to be reviewed at the end of 2018, has paved the way for Mr Kenny to be re-elected premier - which would be a first for his party - if he can secure the support of at least another six TDs (MPs) from outside his own ranks.
Party negotiators are trying to woo two groupings of 11 Independents.
Despite a number of the Independents casting doubts on a deal being struck this week, Mr Kenny voiced his optimism.
"I can confirm that (talks with Independents) are progressing with a sense of urgency," he told the Dail (parliament).
"I'd like to think this matter could be concluded this week, but obviously I'm not in a position to confirm that finally.
"But I do hope that today's discussions, that are currently under way following on from the discussions and agreement with the Fianna Fail party, can be brought to a conclusion and that the matter could be signed off on tonight or tomorrow morning."
Mr Kenny added: "Hopefully that can be reached - I can't guarantee it, but the discussions are very real and are progressing with a sense of urgency."
The country has been locked in a political stalemate since the February 26 general election split the vote like never before.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the traditionally dominant parties who swapped power for generations and whose bitter enmity stems back to the Irish civil war, balked at pressure to form a "grand coalition".
Attention is already being focused on how long a new minority government will last.
Under the arrangement, Fine Gael will have to rule and Fianna Fail oppose without either of them undermining the other too much.