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'We need a government': Covid-19 brings 'urgency' to FF-FG government talks

Michael McGrath says ‘a government with authority, with a mandate’ is needed.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath.
Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath.
Image: RollingNews.ie

FIANNA FÁIL’S MICHAEL McGrath has said people “wouldn’t forgive” politicians if they didn’t form a government in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yesterday, it was confirmed by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that the two parties are to enter government formation talks “as equal partners”.  

Similar statements released by both parties made reference to the “enormous challenges facing the country, particularly with the onset of Covid-19.”

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, McGrath said that the outbreak has changed the dynamic.

“Whether you agree or disagree, it is very clear that the scale and the significance of what we’re facing is enormous and we need a government with authority, with a mandate. We need a functioning parliament whereby legislation can be introduced debated and enacted. And that requires having a government in place,” he said.

The current government remains in place until a new one is formed but McGrath said “ministers who are no longer TDs” are “making profound decisions”.  

“It would be wrong to deny that the backdrop has brought a degree of urgency to the talks because I think undoubtedly it has,” he said.

Because some decisions have been made already, including a €3 billion funding package for health, for social protection, to assist businesses, but more may well need to be done. And it is not sustainable over a prolonged period of time to have what is essentially a caretaker government.

McGrath said it is “undeniable that there will be a very significant economic impact” in the short-term as a result of the coronavirus but added that it is not possible to say if this will affect the spending plans of any new government.  

“The medium term impact is far less clear, and it will be next month before we get updated projections from the Department of Finance,” he said. 

“What impact that has in the second year of government, the third year, you’re talking about working towards a programme for government over a five-year period so it is it is too early to say, and you know that resources will not be there to do all the things that need to be done. ”

“We need national solidarity, politicians are elected to represent and to serve the people of those who are elected to the 33rd Dáil would not be easily forgiven if they did not step up now and ensure the country had a government,” McGrath added.

In a series of tweets last night, party colleague Eamon Ó Cuív TD said the coronavirus outbreak was “not a mandate for long-term government” but McGrath said a new government should be in place for a full term. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, McGrath added that any government would be “a very different arrangement” to the confidence and supply deal that saw Fianna Fáil underpin Fine Gael’s recent minority administration. 

In their statement yesterday, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael said they would “continue discussions with the Green Party”. 

The parties have both said they would not consider a coalition government with Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin’s leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Monday that she felt that party leaders “from across the spectrum” should be involved in the response to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

In a tweet last night McDonald said that “every party has huge responsibility to lead in time of public health emergency”.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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