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A FF-FG government would be the result of an 'artificially narrowed' choice, says Éamon Ó Cuív

The Galway West deputy said the coalition is also being presented as a response to the Covid-19 crisis when this is not the case.

Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar during a pre-election debate.
Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar during a pre-election debate.
Image: PA Images

Updated Apr 6th 2020, 11:51 AM

FIANNA FÁIL TD Éamon Ó Cuív has said the options for government have been “artificially narrowed” so that the only choice being offered is a coalition of his party and Fine Gael.

Ó Cuív, who has been a vocal critic of his party potentially going into government with Fine Gael, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that there is “serious disquiet” in Fianna Fáil about that proposition.

“The situation is that the options have been artificially narrowed to present us with this choice of this government only, but the reality is that there’s a great doubt if this could be put together,” Ó Cuív said.

The Galway West deputy added that the coalition is presented as a response to the Covid-19 crisis but that what’s actually being planned is a full-term government.  

The other big issues is that what’s being mooted at the moment  is a four to five-year arrangement, now obviously in that circumstance when you’re not just dealing with the immediate crisis we face now with Covid-19, you would need the approval of the membership of Fianna Fáil. I can’t tell you which way they would vote. All I know is there is serious disquiet within the party in relation to entering into a four to five-year arrangement with the Fine Gael party. 

Negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been ongoing for a number of weeks but the parties are expected to agree a “joint document” this week that will be used as the basis for seeking smaller parties to join the government.

Though the document has not yet been finalised, it is understood to concentrate on the post-Covid 19 recovery and improving health services.

The provision of housing, which both parties acknowledge is now as important as ever is also a key focus, with sources stating that rents will go down under proposed measures.

The document also focuses on retaining and creating jobs, increasing places for re-skilling, short-term actions to speed up recovery, climate change as well as capital expenditure being kept steady.

There are also a series of tax measures contained in the framework document, with a particular focus on supporting businesses, such as temporary VAT cuts across a number of worst affected sectors, such as tourism and hospitality.

Rate cuts and money for cash-flow is also mentioned. However, a lot of what is mentioned in the 20-page document is dependent on the EU as well, and what supports it will be offering member States.

Speaking on South East Radio this morning, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that €8 billion of taxpayers money has already been spent on emergency Covid-19 measures. 

Coveney also sought to reassure the smaller parties about entering into government, saying that smaller parties who go in with the larger parties often think they will be “squeezed out”. 

However, Coveney gave assurances that that would not be the case, stating that the smaller party that joins with FF-FG will “very much be part of shaping a programme for government”.

Name-checking Labour, the Green Party and the Social Democrats, the Tánaiste said whoever it is will be able to “put their stamp” on the next government. 

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have said they will not enter into government with Sinn Féin.

Speaking this morning, Ó Cuív referenced the Green Party’ suggestion of a national government involving all parties for the duration of the crisis and said that other parties should be approached to gauge their views on such an arrangement.

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Referencing the exclusion of Sinn Féin by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Ó Cuív said: “There have been quite a number of groups and parties excluded, including the joint biggest party in the Dáil and of course that makes it much harder to get the majority.”

Speaking to reporters today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ruled out the prospect of a second election, stating: 

I don’t envisage there being a second election. I don’t even know how we would conduct the election in the current context. 
We gave the other parties two months now to form a government. They haven’t done so. And for that reason, we felt that it is our responsibility to the people and to the nation to be available to serve in government. But we can only do that with other parties.

Following Coveney’s previous statement, Varadkar said a third party is needed to form a government, and he moved to make assurances to those parties today.

“What we’re saying really to those parties is we want to need a third pillar in this government. And we wouldn’t expect for a second that you would enter government unless a big part of your core agenda was a part of that government’s mission as well.

“It’s not our view that we should try to bully any party into government, this is a democracy. And there shouldn’t be any forced marriages in a democracy. Only parties that want to serve together, that want to work together, that have a mandate to work together, should work together,” he said.


- With reporting by Christina Finn

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Rónán Duffy

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