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Republic faces long political limbo

New coalition unlikely to be in place before 1916 centenary, predicts Ahern

By Brian Hutton

Published 01/03/2016

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin

The Irish Republic will celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising without a government, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has forecast.

Political leaders are scrambling to find allies to form a new administration after one of the most indecisive general election outcomes of recent times.

With just a clutch of seats to be decided, the two main political parties are coming under intense pressure to set aside their age-old enmity and forge an unprecedented alliance as confusion reigns about the way forward.

But ex-Fianna Fail leader Mr Ahern ruled out his party entering a coalition with arch-rivals Fine Gael, predicting a minority government which will not be agreed upon for at least another month.

"There is no way, in my view, that this is going to be resolved before Easter. People can forget that," he said.

A massive voter schism after last Friday's poll comes amid national celebrations of the 1916 rebellion, a seminal moment in Irish history which ultimately led to partition and the creation of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The rising was followed by a bitter civil war, with the South's two main parties being born out of the opposing sides.

Despite pressure mounting on the pair to come together to form a "grand coalition" that would restore stability, Mr Ahern said a union was unlikely to work.

"It'll come down to a combination, that there are a group of parties, maybe two parties, but a group of parties who are prepared to support a taoiseach. I think that will happen," he said.

"That government will be a minority government clearly because it won't have the numbers but it'll have sufficient support from outside."

He also ruled out the prospect of a re-run of the election.

"Politicians are exhausted, they've spent a lot of money, their workers have taken leave, they won't want a 2016 election," he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is meeting his party leadership while Fianna Fail chief Micheal Martin has opened talks with his own stalwarts about their limited options. Making the first move, Mr Martin called for the parties to agree an overhaul of how the Dail works before a new government is formed.

"We believe that the new Dail should not represent more business as usual - that it should involve a decisive move towards a reformed politics," he said in a statement last night. "This should be addressed immediately and before the process of forming a new government is proceeded with. The next government should take up office subject to a reformed Dail rather than leaving reform in the hands of that government."

As counting continued in Dublin's RDS, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said it did not look like his party had the numbers to enter government but would continue talks with other like-minded factions and Independents.

"Whether in opposition or in government we will stick by our mandate to continue to push the process of change which is under way," he added.

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