NEW POLITICS? WHAT’S that? Well, it’s two grown men sitting across the Dáil chamber from one another talking about why they are not talking to each other.
That has been the state of play ever since three well-known words began to be bandied around during this so-called silly season – ‘confidence and supply’.
For the everyday punter concerned with some of life’s real problems like housing, rent, homelessness and hospital waiting lists, these words might not mean much – but essentially, it is the deal Fianna Fáil signed up to to facilitate Fine Gael setting up a minority government.
Even though they are the opposition, they have agreed to support the government on some of the big issues, like getting a Budget passed.
The deal states that Fianna Fáil will facilitate three Budget – the third of which is due this October.
So why all the talk about it this summer then?
With the Dáil rising this week, Leo Varadkar appears to be anxious to begin talks with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about extending the deal.
Last December, the Taoiseach said he could see no reason why the confidence and supply agreement could not be extended past a third budget and those colours are still on that mast.
Just another year – appeared to be Varadkar’s mantra – and sure why not, with Varadkar still high in the polls, and confidence in the government relatively decent, things seem to be going swimmingly (some might argue that these stats mean it would also be a good time to go to the people).
At the time, the Taoiseach hinted that he wanted to get the renegotiation going before Budget day.
“I wouldn’t like to see it drop dead the day after the budget either. That wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest and it would not be in the best interests of the country certainly to have a government on Budget night with a confidence and supply agreement but not the day after.”
However, he also said he would give Martin the courtesy of not going into detail in public before he had spoken to the Fianna Fáil leader. In recent weeks, Varadkar has not been so faithful to that promise.
As time ticks on, Varadkar is more keen to sit down – but Martin has said there is a timetable, and getting into those talks before the October Budget was not the deal.
“We are very clear we want to honour and fulfil the confidence and supply agreement,” said Martin last week.
“I’m very clear that we are willing to engage in budget negotiations and we will,” he said, but added that negotiations on October’s budget will take place before a review of the confidence and supply agreement.
While Martin sat across from the Taoiseach, Varadkar told Labour’s Brendan Howlin that he hasn’t heard from the Fianna Fáil leader yet about renegotiating the deal.
It is my preference that we would have already started discussions on renewal of the agreement. It is not in the country’s interests for us to be trying to negotiate an extension to the confidence and supply agreement in October-November when we are dealing with the Brexit negotiations and so many other matters.
It is a matter I will discuss with the Leader of the Opposition in due course. It is the intention that the government will introduce a budget in October.
The Taoiseach also hinted that he wasn’t in the market for an autumn general election, saying it is “very much in the national interest for us to have political stability in the autumn”.
Frankly, not everyone believes him.
‘This is crazy, here’s my number, so call me maybe’
Leo Varadkar said at the end of the week that he has asked Martin to meet, but as of yet there’s been no reply.
All he can do is wait. But he could be waiting a while if Martin’s speech to a room full of journalists on Thursday is anything to go by.
The invite barely issued and Martin was talking about how the Taoiseach appears to need assurances of two more years in power.
“In a lengthy series of interviews and in strategic briefings they have not only demanded that my party give them a guarantee of two more years, they have said that a failure by us to do so immediately might require them to call an election.
From the first moment it has been clear that this has all been about putting politics before policy. The idea that a government can’t do its job unless it has a guarantee of an extended term is palpable nonsense.
He said a lot of people have been quite rightly asking why there has suddenly been so much talk about the next election.
“The answer is a very simple one, the Taoiseach decided for whatever reason that it is in his interest to make this a central issue at the moment,” said the Cork TD.
We’ve played this agreement straight from the start and will continue to do so.
The Agreement says three budgets and then review. It couldn’t be clearer and it was accepted by the Taoiseach when he negotiated it and when he assumed his new role last year.
Martin said Varadkar has decided to play some form of political game.
If the Taoiseach’s primary concern was to actually try and extend the Agreement he would have raised it directly with Fianna Fáil – something which he continually failed to do.
So, where do we stand now?
Leo wants to talk but Micheál’s not ready.
Are we in for a bad break up?Source: BlondieVEVO/YouTube