Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has ruled out a “grand coalition” with Fine Gael after Ireland’s General Election.
Mr Martin said the country needs a “completely new government” without Leo Varadkar’s party.
His comments came after Mr Varadkar suggested that he might countenance working with Fianna Fail in government if next month’s election produced another inconclusive result.
During Wednesday night’s TV election debate, the Taoiseach said his preference would be to work with independent TDs, or parties such as Labour and Greens, to form a coalition.
But he said if the only way to form a stable government was by working with Fianna Fail, he would be willing to do so.
Mr Varadkar also said he would be prepared to support a minority Fianna Fail government through a confidence and supply arrangement – essentially flipping the historic deal that had kept his government in power.
The landmark pact between two parties founded from opposing sides of Ireland’s Civil War of the 1920s was struck in the wake of the 2016 general election.
Fine Gael need to come out of government, they've been there too long, they haven't delivered on key issues such as housing. The people want a new government, that means a completely new government Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail
Canvassing in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Martin ruled out a “grand coalition” with Fine Gael.
Mr Martin also said his party was not interested in another confidence and supply arrangement.
“People want change, that’s the message we’re receiving,” he said.
“They want Fine Gael out of office and we’ve made it very clear we want to go into government with other centre parties, clearly Labour and the Greens are the ones we’d be interested going into government with, but that’s to be determined by the people.
“Fine Gael need to come out of government, they’ve been there too long, they haven’t delivered on key issues such as housing.
“The people want a new government, that means a completely new government.”
Both parties have ruled out entering a coalition with Sinn Fein.
Speaking on Thursday during his election campaign visit to Castleknock Community College, Mr Varadkar said his preference would be to lead the next government with smaller parties including Labour, the Greens and independents.
“But if the numbers fall a certain way and the only way to form a stable government is for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to cooperate in coming together, I think that’s the responsible thing to do for the country,” he added.
“We’ve seen in Spain and Israel, where politicians have plunged their country into a second election and third elections, and the results don’t change very much.”
During the debate on Virgin Media One, Mr Varadkar said: “If it’s the case that the people vote in a certain way and the only way we can form a stable government is for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to work together, I’m willing to do that.”
During a number of heated exchanges in the televised head-to-head, Mr Martin focused on Fine Gael’s record in government over the last nine years, accusing the party of failing in housing and health.
Mr Martin is hoping to build momentum following positive recent opinion polls indicating a change of administration could be on the cards.
During the debate, Mr Varadkar said: “Fine Gael wants to be in government and we have shown we can work with other parties.
“We have shown we can put governments together.
“My preference is to form a coalition.”
Fine Gael has suffered a difficult start to its re-election bid with two recent opinion polls showing a drop in support for the party and Mr Varadkar’s personal rating.
The figures in an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI survey published on Monday put support for Fianna Fail on 25%, Fine Gael on 23% and Sinn Fein on 21%.