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Talks with independents end for the night - without any agreement

They will meet again tomorrow morning.

Updated 11pm

04/05/2016. 04/05/2016. General Election 2016-Gove Independent TDs John Halligan and Finian McGrath speaking to reporters earlier today. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

FINE GAEL TALKS with independent TDs have ended for the night without an agreement.

This morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny had said in the Dáil he hoped talks could be concluded tonight or tomorrow morning. However, he said he could not guarantee a deal will be agreed that soon.

Independent TDs have now left for the night and a meeting of Fine Gael ministers is taking place to discuss progress made today. Discussions with independent TDs will recommence tomorrow morning.

Sources today speculated it could be Friday at the earliest before a deal is done, due to a number of stumbling blocks encountered during the talks.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

While Fine Gael only need six seats, it’s believed they are looking for a greater number of independents to support the minority government.

Yesterday, Fianna Fáil signed up to a deal that will facilitate a Fine Gael-led minority government.

The parliamentary party announced it would endorse the agreement last night, paving the way for Enda Kenny to form an administration with the backing of independent TDs.

24/4/2016 1916 Easter Rising Centenary Celebrations Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin Source: RollingNews.ie

Fianna Fáil will abstain on the election of Taoiseach and the nomination of ministers. It will vote against or abstain from any motions of no confidence in the government and from any votes on money bills.

The ‘confidence and supply arrangement’ looks at a number of key areas including the economy, public sector pay, housing, jobs, water charges and tackling crime.

Irish Water

Much of the discussion surrounding the negotiations held while hammering out the deal focused on water charges. Under the terms of the agreement, Irish Water will be retained “as a single national utility in public ownership”. Water charges will be suspended for at least nine months, six weeks after the new government takes office.

An “external advisory body” will examine the utility before reporting to an Oireachtas committee “on measures needed to improve the transparency and accountability of Irish Water” and issues such as cost reduction, efficiency, staffing policies and infrastructure delivery.

TDs and Senators will then vote on its recommendations.

So, what’s in the rest of the deal?

The agreement is very broad in most areas, noting plans to increase investment, “introduce additional long-term solutions for mortgage arrears cases”, reduce primary school class sizes and “maintain a humane approach for discretionary medical card provision” – without giving specific numbers or details.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, Fine Gael TD Pat Breen noted that a programme for government “would be much more comprehensive”.

Here are some of the main points in the agreement, which you can read in full here:

USC

econ

The two parties have agreed to “introduce reductions in the Universal Social Charge (USC) on a fair basis with an emphasis on low and middle income earners”. “We have compromised a certain amount on USC,” Breen admitted this morning.

He said his party’s plan to eventually phase the tax out remains in place, adding: “Eventually we will abolish USC, it was always going to be a temporary tax.

Housing

housing

housing 2

The deal states that rent supplement and the housing assistance payment (HAP) will be increased by up to 15%.

In its election manifesto, the parties both discussed housing supports but did not mention specific percentage increases.

More gardaí

crime

The deal notes that the number of gardaí will be increased to 15,000  - something that was called for in the Fianna Fáil election manifesto.

gar Source: garda.ie

In its manifesto, Fine Gael said the party was “committed to the recruitment of 600 new Garda recruits per annum. This will bring Garda numbers to approximately 14,000 by 2021, an increase of approximately 1,500 after retirements are taken into account”.

Public Sector Pay

PUBLIC SECTOR

There’s nothing too surprising in the industrial relations section of the agreement, it mentions fulfilling the implementation of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and the establishment of a commission to examine public sector pay levels, including entry levels of pay.

Breen said “a lot of progress” has been made with independent TDs in recent days and he hopes a government will be in place by the end of this week or early next week.

Additional reporting Christina Finn and Michelle Hennessy.

Read: Should we still pay our water bills? It’s the law, says Micheál Martin

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Órla Ryan

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