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Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to meet for preliminary talks around government formation today

The two parties will both meet with the Green Party separately later this week.

FINE GAEL AND Fianna Fáil are set to meet today for the latest move in Micheál Martin’s efforts to create a government. 

The Fianna Fáil leader has lined up a number of meetings with party leaders over the coming days but has repeatedly ruled out a meeting with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, citing a clash in policies and Sinn Féin’s historical links to the IRA.

Leo Varadkar has said Fine Gael’s first preference is still to go into opposition despite meeting with other parties for “exploratory talks” this week.

He said his party will only go into a minority government as a ‘last resort’ and speaking to reporters in Athlone yesterday, he insisted that position has not changed. 

“As I said last week, we would be willing to engage in exploratory talks with any party that wants to speak to us,” he said.

“That’s happening with Fianna Fáil and the Greens this week. Labour have their own issues and don’t want to talk, and Social Democrats cancelled their meeting we offered them – so really it’s just exploratory discussions at this point with Fianna Fáil and the Greens this week.”

Varadkar continued to point to Sinn Féin as the party with responsibility for forming a government, saying: “What I would say is that the onus really still falls with Sinn Fein to form a government.”

A Fine Gael party spokesperson said today’s meeting is being held for Martin and Varadkar to “share their analysis of the situation”. 

Mary Lou McDonald’s party won the most first preference votes and took home 37 seats in the general election on 8 February – Fianna Fáil also won 37 seats while Fine Gael won 35.

McDonald has met with independents and leaders of a number of parties at this stage including the Green Party and the Social Democrats. 

The party’s negotiating team, McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O’Neill, are embarking on a tour of public rallies across the country this week in what it says is bringing the “Government for Change to the people”. 

Speaking yesterday, Sinn Féin TD on the negotiating team Pearse Doherty said that his party will also be hoping to move into detailed discussions with party leaders which it has already held exploratory talks with. 

“This week we’re intensifying discussions with other parties and independents, and we are engaging now [with] the Green Party in a set of detailed discussions around policy issues and those discussions will continue for a period of time,” Pearse Doherty said.  

“We’ve also talks with other political parties and independents asking them to go into detailed discussions in relation to a number of key areas that we believe have to form a central part of any programme for government.”

Tomorrow both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will meet with the Green Party to discuss government formation. Later this evening, the Rural Independent Group will also meet with Martin to discuss the issue. 

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