The leader of Ireland's Fianna Fail said he did not think a new government would be formed by the Easter holidays in the middle of next month as lawmakers put almost all their resources into the worsening coronavirus outbreak.
The Fine Gael party agreed last week to step up coalition talks with rivals Fianna Fail, as both said the spread of the virus had increased the urgency in forming a new government which can command a majority.
Ireland has since shut schools, universities, childcare facilities and pubs and while talks between the two parties took place over the last two days, Martin said the emergency measures needed to fight the health crisis clearly took precedence.
"At this stage I don't see it by Easter, because of the range of activity around the COVID (coronavirus) issue. It's not within my gift to give you a timetable," Martin told Ireland's Virgin Media television station in an interview.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have 37 and 35 seats respectively in the fractured 160-seat parliament, meaning they need the support of at least one smaller party or group of independent lawmakers to reach a majority.
Both center-right parties steadfastly refuse to govern with the left-wing, pro-Irish unity Sinn Fein, which surged to 37 seats at the Feb. 8 election.
The Green Party, who are next on 12 seats and have been courted by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, have called on all parties to suspend talks on forming a new administration and instead build a temporary national government.
Martin again rejected that proposal but said he "would love" the Greens be part of the next government.
The Fianna Fail leader said decisions to "very significantly reboot" the economy once the worst of outbreak had passed would need to be taken by a new government.
That view was shared by Fine Gael when it said earlier on Thursday that it "will lead the rebuilding of the Irish economy again." (Reuters)