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Independents more stable than the Greens in government, says minister as weekend deadline set for deal

The deadlines for getting a deal done have been successfully pushed back in recent days.

Image: Sam Boal

TRANSPORT MINISTER SHANE Ross has said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should “undoubtedly” go into government with the Independents over the Green Party, stating that it would be “more stable”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime, the minister said Independent TDs would be “very, very reliable”, recalling how many said the Independent Alliance members would pull the last government down in the early days, but ultimately stuck it out in government with Fine Gael.

“I would say go for the Independents because they will actually be more stable in government,” he said. 

Independent TDs such as Denis Naughten and Verona Murphy have said they stand ready to enter into government formation talks.

Last week, Independent TDs such as Michael Fitzmaurice, Michael McNamara and Marian Harkin were told they would get sight of the final deal but would not be involved in formal negotiations.

Deadline

Ross’ comments come as the negotiating teams in the government formation talks are working towards getting a programme for government agreed by Friday or Saturday, it is understood.

The deadlines for getting a deal done have been successfully pushed back in recent days.

The first deadline missed was last weekend. Another date was set for yesterday, but was missed. Finally, a deadline of this weekend has been marked – and it is understood to be the final deadline.

Talks have intensified today, but there are a number of major issues still unresolved. 

The major focus again today is agriculture and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Last night, deputy leaders from the three parties rubber stamped several texts which will be signed-off on today.

The sticking point in the talks continues to be the issue that caused controversy at the beginning of the talks – the Green Party’s demand for a 7% annual reduction in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

During the talks, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have maintained that rural Ireland should not be adversely impacted by the target. In the Dáil this afternoon, Green party leader Eamon Ryan denied claims that his party in government would be bad for the rural economy.

What is being dubbed as interesting timing – due to the Greens and Fine Gael sitting down to discuss how to best achieve the 7% target – Fine Gael issued a press release today on behalf of TD Emer Higgins claiming carbon emissions are already going to fall by 7% this year because of people working from home. 

The statement was based on what Minister Richard Bruton said in the Dáil today, when he cited studies from Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, which said Ireland is set to hit a 6% or 7% reduction due to the pandemic.

“But we do not know how the year will end up. Remote working definitely has had an impact but we will not know that until later in the year. Obviously I do not think anyone would want the way in which we achieve our emissions is by having one million people effectively furloughed, on furlough or whatever the word is, either on Covid payments or with their employers very much limping along, but we can learn,” said Bruton.

While he said he was not going to comment on the discussions around carbon pricing currently underway, Bruton added: 

“The reality is that we will probably end up in a position like Denmark, which has committed to high ambition but cannot specify all of the pathway. That is the reality we will have to follow.”

Green Party demands

However, the Green Party want annual commitments in the programme for government to make this a yearly occurrence.

Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne told Newstalk Breakfast today that an average 7% reduction in emissions has been agreed between the two large parties.

“So this isn’t a case of the Greens demanding something and not getting it – it’s already been agreed to.

“I think what’s happening at the moment is we’re just trying to work out exactly the mechanics of doing that,” he said.

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Housing has been another consistent issue throughout the talks, between all parties.

Fine Gael is anxious to ensure the Land Development Agency to be at the heart of housing delivery, but other sides are calling the agency the Irish Water of the housing crisis.

Fianna Fáil are keen on getting a big commitment on affordable housing, while the Greens want rent certainty and a serious shake-up of the sector.

Rewetting the bogs, cycling versus road commitments, transport, finance and how to pay down the debt and when, are also a bones of contention in the talks.

If and when a programme for government is agreed, the next hurdle is getting each of the party’s membership to sign-off on the deal. This weekend’s deadline is important for a reason – at least ten to 12 days will be needed so the parties can consult with their members before votes are taken. 

There has been talk that this deal between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party might never be done.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said today that he is not so sure there is going to be a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Green government at this stage.

The Offences Against the State Act is due to run out at the end of this month, with TDs stating the renewal of the law has been mentioned repeatedly in the setting of deadlines for talks. If the law elapses, the Special Criminal Court cannot function.

As a side bar, it is understood the Greens have raised the prospect of reviewing the law, citing that Amnesty International has raised concerns about about the human rights aspect of the legislation. Sinn Féin have also taken issue with the law in the past. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are understood to have stated that reviewing the Act is not palatable to either party. 

As time ticks on, the three party leaders – Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan – are expected to play pivotal roles in sorting out some of the final problems. With this weekend set down as the final deadline, there is no time to waste.

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