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Micheál Martin: There are 'serious deficiencies' in implementation of deal with Fine Gael

Timmy Dooley says the Budget needs to be agreed before any confidence and supply talks.

Updated Sep 4th 2018, 5:45 PM

FIANNA FÁIL LEADER Micheál Martin has rejected the Taoiseach’s claim that the government cannot function without an extension of the confidence and supply agreement. 

It emerged this morning that Leo Varadkar wrote a letter to Micheál Martin last Friday seeking to begin talks to extend the deal between the Dáil’s two largest parties for another two years. 

That deal, signed after prolonged talks between the parties in the wake of the 2016 general election, essentially set the parameters for Fianna Fáil to prop up a Fine Gael-led minority government. 

Fianna Fail 905_90529555 Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The agreement covered three Budgets before a mooted renegotiation – and the Budget set to be delivered by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in a little over a month’s time represents the last in that series. 

The Taoiseach has made a number of calls for renewed talks to take place before the Budget, citing stability and Brexit as the primary reasons to bring them forward. 

Speaking in recent days Martin had stressed that the Budget would need to be agreed first. The two leaders are expected to meet tomorrow to begin that process. 

In the letter, Varadkar said that he believes the current arrangement between both parties has “served the country well” but added that there is “more to do”. 

He asks for Martin to agree to a General Election date in the summer of 2020, just less than a year shy of a full-term for the 32nd Dáil. 

  • Read the letter in full here

Now, in a response sent by the Fianna Fáil leader to Varadkar today – publicly released by the party – Martin said he did not see a “reasonable basis” for the statement that the government cannot function if it does not know if it will last from week to week. 

“This has no grounding in our constitutional system and was not raised as an issue when the arrangement was negotiated. Indeed it would be extraordinary if we were to agree that ministers could not be expected to do their jobs without advance assurance of a compliant Dáil,” he wrote. 

Fianna Fail has fully honoured its part in this unprecedented arrangement that facilitated a Fine Gael minority led government, and has done so often in the face of significant provocation. I would remind you of the many naysayers who believed both parties would not pass one budget. 

“When we met in July, I pointed out that Fianna Fáil had provided government with the space and stability to take forward Brexit negotiations and this should be acknowledged.”

Martin also pointed out in his letter that there are still “serious deficiencies” in the implementation of the agreement between the two parties, particularly in relation to housing and health service crises. 

‘Fiscal confidence’

Speaking this morning, Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley described the Taoiseach’s letter as a “distraction”. 

Let’s get some fiscal security in place here, let’s agree the important issues and the funding of the State for the next 12 months and when that fiscal confidence is in place then let’s deal with the political issues about whether we’re going to have an election or when it’s going to take place or what the next set of priorities will be.

Dooley, who is also his party’s spokesperson on communications, was speaking at the launch of a Fianna Fáil motion to retain post office services in 159 communities affected by the announcement of widespread closures last week. 

“Our motion is clear that the Government must initiate a Public Service Obligation (PSO) payment to ensure that these post offices remain open,” Dooley said. 

“The contracts to run these post offices must also be advertised to allow other interested parties get involved in delivering these vital public services.

Post offices cannot be viewed as simple accounting units with a focus solely on profit and loss. They are an immeasurable part of community life across Ireland, but especially in rural Ireland, and the government must listen and must intervene.

An Post announced last week that the post offices will close following the retirement of local postmasters, as part of a deal agreed with the Irish Postmasters’ Union. 

The company said that services in the closed post offices would be consolidated in the nearest available office that remains open.

The news was met with widespread criticism last week. Communications Minister Denis Naughten is due to appear before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions on the issue later this afternoon. 

With reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll and Christina Finn

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