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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019
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No deal yet: Fianna Fáil say they're going back in to discuss homelessness

Day 63. Still no government.

Updated at 5.30pm 

THERE’S STILL NO white smoke from the halls of Trinity College Dublin, where negotiators from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been holding talks on forming a new government.

It had been hoped a deal would be announced today, with an announcement expected in time for the main early evening TV news bulletins.

The main sticking point, water charges, was dealt with earlier in the week. The media had been told today’s proceedings were to deal with ‘nuts and bolts’ issues.

However Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan, who has been taking a leading role in negotiations for his party, emerged from the talks shortly after 5pm to say there was no final agreement yet.

The two parties were going back in to talk about homelessness, he told reporters. He wasn’t sure if there’d even be a deal by the weekend, the Dublin Bay South deputy added.

“The issue isn’t just Irish Water,” a source close to the talks had said earlier.

Rent supplement, the long term illness payment, housing, health and also reinstatement of guidance counsellors are all being discussed.

What’s happening with water? 

A draft agreement between the two parties which would include the suspension of water charges was agreed on Tuesday, however it’s believed that proposal documents have been passed back and forth between parties for the last number of days.

As part of the deal, the issue of water would be referred to a commission and then dealt with by an Oireachtas committee – before being voted on by the Dáil as a whole.

Once an agreement is reached for Micheál Martin’s party to support a Fine Gael-led minority government, attention will turn back to the independents.

Enda Kenny needs at least six more non-party deputies to support him, in order to have a viable administration.

Fine Gael said earlier it was hopeful of a deal today, while independent TD Denis Naughton told Newstalk at lunchtime:

I had a call from Simon Coveney earlier to say they expect to have a document later today.

Leo’s broadside

The continuation of negotiations between the two parties comes after some tension yesterday, caused by criticism of FF by acting health minister Leo Varadkar.

Speaking to RTÉ yesterday, Varadkar insisted scrapping charges was the wrong decision and not in the national interest.

Micheál Martin’s party could have concentrated on issues like the health service or the USC, he said – but had chosen instead to focus on water.

He said it would have been “insane” to go back to the people and fight an election on water charges.

“Crown of thorns”

Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea called Varadkar’s comments “truly bizarre”.

I find it truly bizarre that somebody who is part of the negotiations should, at that particular point in the negotiations, come out and speak as he did.

8/7/2014. Fianna Fail Free Travel Pass Reviews Willie O'Dea (File photo) Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

O’Dea said he found it “truly brain-boggling” that Varadkar wanted to serve in a government which was going to suspend water charges – even though he said that this wasn’t in the national interest.

“He’s trying to have the crown of thorns and the 30 pieces of silver,” said O’Dea.

In relation to water charges, O’Dea said that the question of whether people who paid should get their money back would “be a matter for the government” to decide.

- With reporting from Christina Finn, Daragh Brophy and Paul Hosford. 

Read: Fianna Fáil says it’s now ‘end game’ and wants Dáil debate on water

Read: Comments by Leo about FF’s “surreal” focus on water have kicked off a row

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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