FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has sought the permission of his party to negotiate a possible government with all parties except Sinn Féin.
He told a meeting of his Parliamentary Party that Fianna Fáil should seek to form a government in a bid to keep Sinn Féin out of power due to the damage he claims Mary Lou McDonald's party would do to the country.
Mr Martin has confirmed he is prepared to perform a u-turn on his pre-election promise not to go into coalition with Fine Gael.
He plans to “speak to Fine Gael” next week but will concentrate on meeting smaller parties like the Social Democrats and the Green Party in the first instance.
“We’ll reach out to Fine Gael and speak to Fine Gael,” he said.
Asked on RTÉ’s ‘Six One’ whether a grand coalition was now in sight, Mr Martin said it would take a lot of work to create a programme for government.
“Any government that’s formed has to be sustainable. I believe a government should be formed,” he said.
“In terms of the future, I can’t be certain how this is going to work. I wouldn’t rule out another election because this is going to be so difficult.”
Mr Martin predicted that each of the main parties will nominate their leaders for Taoiseach when the Dáil returns next Thursday but none will succeed.
“We won’t get a resolution next Thursday,” he said. But he added that finding a new government shouldn’t take 70 days like in 2016.
Put to him that he was breaking his pre-election promises on coalition formation, Mr Martin noted that Sinn Féin had changed its position from two days ago.
“Sinn Féin did say two days ago the last party they want in government is Fianna Fáil and two days later I get a letter,” he said, noting that Mary Lou McDonald has requested a conversation about how they could work together.
A source said there was "pretty unanimous support" for Mr Martin ruling out government with Sinn Féin and for the nomination of a negotiating team to talk to other parties.
Mr Martin is said to have told his party that Fianna Fáil won't be thanked for sitting on the side-lines and letting Sinn Féin form a government.
He said Fianna Fáil need to be in government to tackle the issues facing the country.
Mr Martin has been mandated to appoint a team to speak to all parties apart from Sinn Féin.
One TD said there was agreement to allow Sinn Féin's efforts to form a left-leaning government "run into a ditch"
Fianna Fáil would then enter into negotiations with other parties.
Mr Martin is said to have referenced the incident where Waterford Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane shouted "up the Ra" at a party event after the election.
He claimed it showed that the "mask slipped" in pointing to reasons that Sinn Féin should not be in government.
Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said Mr Martin should be allowed appoint a negotiating team to talk to all parties other than Sinn Féin.
A source said: "The general consensus is Sinn Féin out, out, out and we've given a mandate to our leader to enter into talks with other parties, particularly the Greens and Social Democrats.
"There was no appetite to go in with Fine Gael.
"He's got a mandate. There's no rush," the source added.
One Fianna Fáil TD said that none of those who spoke at the meeting suggested holding discussions about government formation with Sinn Féin.
On the possibility of talks with Fine Gael, the TD said: "That's not wanted either, but perhaps confidence and supply reversed."
Meanwhile, Longford-Westmeath TD Robert Troy has been appointed to lead Fianna Fáil's Seanad election efforts.
More to follow...