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Harris warns government 'not sustainable for much longer', Donohoe sets July deadline to pass new legislation

The Greens’ parliamentary party members are due to resume talks today on whether or not they will enter government formation talks.

File image: Some of the Covid-19 pandemic measures for businesses will require new legislation to passed.
File image: Some of the Covid-19 pandemic measures for businesses will require new legislation to passed.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews

Updated May 3rd 2020, 2:06 PM

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON HARRIS has told TheJournal.ie the Taoiseach “was very clear” on the 7% yearly emissions reduction, and Fine Gael is up for talks on how it can be achieved.

Harris’ comments come as increased pressure has been placed on political parties to form a government, as it was revealed that some of the Covid-19 pandemic measures for businesses will require new legislation.

“I do hope we can form a new government in this country. The current government is working as hard as it possibly can, but it’s not a sustainable position for an awful lot longer.

“Ireland does need a government, in my view with a Dáil majority, so we can get normal parliamentary work underway so that we have an opportunity to explore legislation on a range of matters. And so that you can also have a clear understanding as to who the government is, who the opposition is and the benefit of that in terms of scrutiny as well,” he said.

The Greens Party’s parliamentary party members are due to resume talks later today on whether or not they will enter government formation talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. 

The Greens’ pre-condition of only entering a government committed to a 7% reduction in carbon emissions has emerged as a potential deal-breaker.

“I fully respect parties need to take their own time and reach their own decisions. That’s not for me to comment on but my very clear view is Ireland does need a new government,” said the minister.

I really hope the Greens do accept the offer to engage with the leader of my party and the leader for Fianna Fáil. I think that would be a place where an awful lot of detail could be worked through.

Harris said every party has policies, but if they are to enter into government is it their job to begin to outline “how you make that policy a reality”.

He said it takes a lot of working through details, but “we’re up for doing it”.

“We’re up for having really constructive engagement on it, the Taoiseach was very clear on the 7% targets. If there is way of doing it, let’s sit down, let’s talk about how we get there. But we do need to sit down and talk,” he concluded.

Urgency to pass new legislation 

Announcing a new suite of business supports yesterday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said that tax liability measures and credit guarantee scheme will both require legislation – putting pressure on parties to form a government.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week programme today, Donohoe said that those pieces of legislation will have to be passed by June or early July, so a new government would have to be formed by then. 

“Well, from my point of view, if I look at legislation that I believe will need to be enacted by the Oireachtas in relation to how we manage tax liabilities and the warehousing and also putting in place a credit guarantees scheme for new landing, which I believe could be, and will be needed in the second half of 2020.

“I think as we move towards June and into the early part of July. I’m reasonably certain we’re going to have to have those pieces of legislation passed,” Donohoe said.  

The “warehousing” of tax liability for 1 year after that business begins trading again, means that no debt enforcement action will be taken by Revenue, and no interest will be charged on that ‘warehoused’ debt.

The SME Credit Guarantee Scheme aims to encourage additional lending to small to medium businesses (from 10 to 100 employees) by offering a partial government guarantee to banks against losses on qualifying loans to small businesses.

On Friday’s Late Late Show, Varadkar said he hoped another election could be avoided as he expressed a willingness to meet the Greens’ carbon emissions target.

He said he was keen to meet the 7% target but said it had to be done with the buy-in of the farming and business communities.

Varadkar, who said he did not think a new government will be formed until June at the earliest, said Ireland’s economic recovery from Covid-19 could be “green not brown”.

- With reporting from Adam Daly 

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