Coalition talks to get under way

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Enda Kenny is beginning behind-the-scenes negotiations to form the next government

Behind-the-scenes negotiations to form the next Irish government are beginning.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will discuss options for a new coalition with the Labour Party and separately with like-minded independents after steering his party to a historic victory at the polls.

But before any calls were made, all sides accepted a deal has to be struck inside a week as Ireland faces a series of challenging hurdles linked to its multibillion-euro bailout and banking crisis.

Fine Gael’s director of elections Phil Hogan said pressure from Europe would force a quick decision on coalition.

“There seems to be a realisation that there are some important decisions coming up for the country in the context of EU matters,” he said.

The Dail is scheduled to sit again on Wednesday March 9.

Mr Kenny is due to travel to Helsinki on Friday for a meeting of the European People’s Party, with which Fine Gael is affiliated.

The contacts are intended to open the door for a charm offensive and garner support to renegotiate Ireland’s 85 billion euro loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Europe.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who will meet left-leaning European colleagues separately on the same day, is in prime position to join a coalition after steering his party to second place.

But Fine Gael also has the option of securing a pact with independents if Mr Kenny can get enough like-minded non-party TDs on board. He is to make the first contacts with potential partners by phone.

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