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Varadkar tells party he's confident new government can be in place by next month

The Taoiseach said he is confident the talks between his own party, Fianna Fáil and the Greens will be successful.

Image: Rollingnews.ie

Updated May 5th 2020, 10:45 PM

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has told his Fine Gael party colleagues that he is confident a new government can be in place by next month. 

He is due to meet with leaders of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party later this week to commence formal negotiations. 

Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan met for preliminary discussions this morning, when it was agreed to begin talks on drafting a programme for government this Thursday. 

At tonight’s Fine Gael teleconference Parliamentary Party meeting, Varadkar said he was determined the talks between his own party, Fianna Fáil and the Greens would be successful.

He said he also expects that the government that will be formed would last four to five years.

A significant number of party TD’s and senators sought reassurances that Fine Gael core values and policy’s would be reflected in an agreed programme for government.

‘Urgency’

The talks this week come after the Green Party said over the weekend it would enter into programme for government discussions with the two parties.

They will take place almost three months after the general election which saw the Greens win 12 seats, compared to 37 for Fianna Fáil and 35 for Fine Gael. The combination would give the three parties a majority in the 160-seat Dáil. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath TD described today’s preliminary meeting between the three party leaders as a “significant development” and expressed hope that proper negotiations could start this week. 

“There is now some urgency to get this process underway and hopefully in the coming weeks to move towards government formation, we know for a fact that certain legislation now needs to be passed in the Dáil in the next number of weeks to underpin really important schemes for businesses to help them with their cash flow and their working capital, and also to assist in the warehousing of certain tax liabilities,” he said. 

“So I think we all have to recognise that there is an obligation in the weeks ahead to make every effort to form a government.”

Speaking later on the same programme, however, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD said that programme for government discussions are more likely in weeks are not days. 

“That has to be discussed with the other parties today,” he replied when asked about when negotiations could start. 

It’s not a matter of days to do that. it will take a few weeks, a short number of weeks, because you need to get it right and particularly all parties agree and we need to get the economic recovery part right, that’s central to the task of the next government. That we help our people back to work, we help take small businesses back into business. And we set a path which actually sees the economy recover, even as we manage the health crisis into the next year. So to get that right, I think we’ll take a certain amount of time. 

‘Economic emergency’

Although the Seanad election has been completed, 11 Senators must be chosen by the taoiseach and there have been concerns that legislation could not be passed without a full complement of senators in place.

The Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl wrote about his concerns in a letter where he said based on legal advice “it is not possible for the current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD to make the eleven nominations”. 

McGrath said that a framework document for government priorities has already been prepared by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and that two days of have discussions followed with the Green Party. 

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“Confronting the economic emergency is going to be the number one priority for any incoming government, and there are livelihoods at stake. And there are so many people across our country today who are worried about paying their mortgage and paying their rent. And we know that,” he said. 

The Green Party’s decision to enter into government talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael comes despite significant debate within its parliamentary party about this approach and an insistence that meeting climate targets must be part of any final agreement. 

Speaking about disagreements without his own party on entering into discussions and reports that his deputy leader Catherine Martin TD was opposed to the move, Ryan said this was “perfectly normal and appropriate politics”. 

“Part of the job in politics is to tease out and have different views and to contest views as to what the right approach is. That’s a healthy thing in Irish politics or in any political system, so I don’t think see that as a failing I see it as a strength,” he said. 

Ryan also said that he believes it is possible to have a new government in place before mid-June.  

Sinn Féin, which also has the most number of TDs in the Dáil along with Fianna Fáil’s 37, has criticised prospect of the three-party government. 

“Both of them in government together – no matter who they are propped up by – is not what people voted for and will not deliver the change that people voted for in February’s general election,” Matt Carthy TD said on Sunday.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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Rónán Duffy

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