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Noonan predicts another election, as Fine Gael discusses its poll battering

Meanwhile, Simon Coveney apologised to his Fine Gael colleagues at Leinster House today.

Updated 23.00pm

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

MICHAEL NOONAN HAS told the Fine Gael parliamentary party that there is likely to be another election within two years.

The Finance Minister was addressing Fine Gael’s newer, smaller parliamentary party after its poor election performance where it lost 16 Dáil seats and secured 26 fewer than it won in 2011.

Noonan warned that the fractured make-up of the 32nd Dáil meant another election is likely in the medium-term, as several TDs voiced criticism of the party’s campaign over the last three weeks.

At a lengthy meeting of TDs and senators in Leinster House, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Fine Gael has a responsibility to try to form a government.

Kenny said the party is to begin reaching out to smaller parties and independents about forming a government, but cautioned that he would not enter into an agreement that is not sustainable.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney apologised to colleagues for the problems caused by his remarks on Tuesday night’s Prime Time when he said Fine Gael was “willing to talk about water”.

03/02/2016. Fine Gael. Pictured An Taoiseach Enda Enda Kenny with his depleted parliamentary party at Leinster House today. Source: Sam Boal

Many took this to mean that water charges could conceivably be scrapped and it sparked a widespread debate about whether people should continue to pay their bills.

Many TDs were privately furious at the remarks, saying Coveney had created difficulties for them locally and damaged his own hopes of leading the party.

Yesterday, Coveney backtracked and said that scrapping charges would be a “a big mistake” as Kenny said that it would be “a seriously costly and seriously historic mistake” to scrap Irish Water.

One TD said this afternoon that the minister’s comments had caused them “a lot of bother” but welcomed the apology. They predicted there would be no “blood-letting” at today’s meeting, adding: ”That will come later.”

Another TD said it was important that the party “get back on the pitch” after a poor election. They said said it should be “responsible” about going back into government, adding that the full election post-mortem would come at a later date.

Prior to the meeting, Kenny led his new and smaller parliamentary party across the plinth of Leinster House where they posed for photos.

Kenny did not take questions from the media.

In an official statement this evening, TD and vice chairperson of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Catherine Byrne said that the meeting had been “positive and constructive”.

“We agreed to work in a progressive manner towards the formation of a new government, but not at any cost. It is critical that any government is in the people’s interest,” she said.

She also said that the meeting had reiterated the party’s position to support the Irish Water model as “the best and most cost effective way of providing clean water and decent waste water services”.

Back in business: The newer and larger Fianna Fáil gathered in Leinster House today

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Hugh O'Connell

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