Enda Kenny faces high noon vote in re-election bid


Ireland's caretaker premier Enda Kenny is facing a high noon vote to be re-elected the country's leader.

For the fourth and likely final time, the acting Taoiseach is going before the parliament to ask for its backing to head up a minority government after a months-long political stalemate.

He is counting on the support of a raft of Independents to get him over the line, having effectively handed them a deadline to join him or rule themselves out of power.  

If successful, he will be the first Fine Gael leader in history to secure a second term in office.

Ireland has been without an elected government for 70 days.

Outgoing coalition partners Fine Gael and Labour took a hammering in February's general election, which opened up an unprecedented split in the Irish electorate.  

Weeks of talks led to Mr Kenny's party doing a deal with arch-rivals and the country's second largest party Fianna Fail, who agreed to abstaining from a vote of 157 TDs (MPs) on his re-election.

A number of concessions were handed to the main Opposition party under the accord struck last weekend and which is to be reviewed at the end of 2018.

Since then, Mr Kenny's party has been locked in talks with two factions of 11 Independents - known as the Independent Alliance and the rural alliance - to agree a programme for government.

A number of Cabinet positions and junior ministerial roles are being offered to woo the potential coalition bedfellows. 

The Fine Gael leader needs the backing of just six more TDs outside his own rank and file to help make it over the line.

The vote in the Dail is expected to take place at noon.

The leaking of a draft deal between Fine Gael and the Independents threatened to upset last minute negotiations being wrapped up on Thursday evening.

John Halligan, Waterford TD, said his Independence Alliance was "deeply disappointed" that the document was "leaked before we saw it."

"I think it is absolutely outrageous and unprofessional," he told reporters outside the government formation talks. 

"It's no way to do business."

Nonetheless, Government chief whip Paul Keogh told TDs the Dail would meet again for a special Friday sitting to vote for a Taoiseach.

The move is being seen as a deadline for Independents to either join the coalition or rule themselves out of power. 

Ireland has been locked in a political stalemate since the February 26 general election split the vote like never before.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the traditionally dominant parties who swapped power for generations and whose bitter enmity stems back to the Irish civil war, balked at pressure to form a "grand coalition".

Attention is already being focused on how long a new minority government will last.

Under the arrangement, Fine Gael will have to rule and Fianna Fail oppose without either of them undermining the other too much.