Irish election: Fianna Fáil rejects Fine Gael's offer to form government
The Republic of Ireland's second largest political party, Fianna Fáil, has rejected an offer of partnership government with its rivals, Fine Gael.
The two parties held talks almost six weeks after a general election produced a hung parliament, in which no party won enough seats to govern alone.
Fine Gael, led by acting Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, remains the biggest party with 50 seats.
Mr Kenny said Fianna Fáil's refusal of the offer was a "serious mistake".
The Fine Gael leader claimed the rejection was "driven by narrow party interests rather than the national interest".
"Ireland needs a stable and lasting government to meet the many national and international challenges facing the country," Mr Kenny added.
"Fine Gael's preferred option of a full partnership is the best option for providing the necessary stability and it is very regrettable that Fianna Fáil has rejected this historic opportunity."
However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told a press conference "the best interests of the Irish people are not served by a government made up of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael".
"We made this promise consistently in advance of the election, we made it very clear to the Irish people and to those who were voting for us that we would not go into government with Fine Gael and we're remaining consistent and true to that commitment," he added.
Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael trace their origins in the Irish Civil War, when their founding fathers were on opposite sides of a bitter dispute over the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, which partitioned the island of Ireland.
The historic political rivals are both centrist parties but have never shared power in a state where coalition governments are the norm.
Irish state broadcaster RTÉ has reported that Fine Gael's offer of partnership government remained on the table, but added that no further talks are planned between the two largest parties.
It also said Mr Martin has told his party that he was in favour of a Fianna Fáil minority government.
Fianna Fáil had a successful election and more than doubled the number of seats they held in the last parliament, but still have six fewer elected members (known as Teachtaí Dála or TDs) than Fine Gael.
Sinn Féin is the third largest party with 23 seat, the Labour Party has seven TDs while smaller parties and independents make up the other 34 seats.