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Martin says he's trying to be the 'sane voice' and calls on Varadkar to agree election date

Martin says a legislative priority programme must be agreed for after Christmas.

Martin said the Taoiseach appears to be weighing up his options.
Martin said the Taoiseach appears to be weighing up his options.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

A FRESH AGREEMENT between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is needed if this government is to last past January, according to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. 

Speaking to reporters today, Martin also said the Taoiseach is weighing up his options on when to call an election, but he wants a date set.

“I think he[Leo Varadkar] is keeping his options open. I think he’s probably weighing up whether he goes immediately after the Spring session convenes, or if he wants to go at a later date in April or in May.

“I think I’ve made a fair point that Easter is the natural cut-off point for the Dáil. There is little point in coming back after Easter, so that’s the week before Easter, so you can calculate three, four weeks after that, it’s not rocket science,” he said.

The Taoiseach has stated that he wants a May election, and while Martin said he deliberately didn’t want to put a specific date on it, he said he didn’t see any point in coming back after 12 April.

“There’s a week before that, I think we’re up to that Holy Thursday, and then that’s the end of the Dáil, that’s essentially the end of this Dáil,” he said, stating that if that were to work out an election could be held at the end of April. 

“But we won’t argue about it,” he said.

Last night in an interview with Pat Kenny on Virgin Media, the Taoiseach said: 

“My focus and I really mean this as Taoiseach and as head of government is on the business of government.  It’s never been on setting the date for an election.  When that comes, it comes; we’ll be ready for it and we intend to win it and lead the next government.”

To Leo 

Martin wrote to the Taoiseach earlier this week and requested that they agree a date, but Varadkar has not replied. 

“I have written to the Taoiseach, indicating that the sensible and logical option for the entire Oireachtas coming back for the spring session is to replace short-term maneuvering and opportunism, tactics if you like, with substance. Let’s agree to a set of doable legislative priorities to the Easter break,” he said today.

He also told reporters today that he followed up the letter with a text to Varadkar to say that he was available for talks. He didn’t state whether the Taoiseach wrote back.

The confidence and supply deal between the two parties (which keeps the show on the road for this government) will become “untenable”, said Martin. 

“The alternative is, if there’s an agreement, a sensible agreement to wind down the Dáil with legislation that can pass that affects people,” he said.

Leo Varadkar may be contemplating not coming back to the Dáil after Christmas, said Martin, but he said he believes politicians will be coming back to Leinster House.

“As I say in my letter, we will be coming back, you know, because the Brexit is ending on the 31st of January,” said Martin.

However, Martin said he does not see the current agreement between his party and the Fine Gael-led government lasting until April, unless there is a fresh legislative programme is worked out.

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Week-to-week

Martin said the government will be operating on a week-to-week basis if the two parties don’t sit down and carve out what legislation must be prioritised in the new year.

Outlining some of his legislative priorities, Martin said the medical card extension for over 70s, nursing home charge changes for businesses and farmers, as well as the open disclosure, online transparency and harassment Bills and tougher drug laws.

He said these laws must pass through the Dáil before a general election is called.

“I’m just endeavoring to be the sane voice, to put a bit of logic on the table, given that the confidence and supply has defied expectations,” he said.

“Should we not end this interesting chapter of political history in an orderly way and say Irish politics can do things sensibly,” he said.

“Many people said at the outset of confidence and supply, that Fianna Fáil would pull out the rug from under the government at the first available opportunity, that we would strike at government when they were vulnerable. But we didn’t do that.”

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