Martin says there is no question of Fianna Fáil supporting Fine Gael in key votes. PA Archive/PA Images
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Ahead of Leo meeting, Micheál says FF won't vote with government in final months of Dáil

The two party leaders are due to meet on Thursday to discuss the next general election and when it might be.

MICHEÁL MARTIN HAS said he will be entering into his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday evening “in good faith”. 

The two party leaders are due to meet after the special Cabinet meeting being held in Marino in Dublin to discuss the next general election and when it might be. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is on the record as stating that he wants the election to be held in May 2020.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Easter time would be the “natural” end to this government. 

However, when the next election might be held is expected to be a lot clearer after the two party leaders meet face-to-face for talks this week.

Before Christmas, Martin wrote to the Taoiseach and requested that the two agree a date, but Varadkar did not reply straight away. Martin even followed up by text message. Varadkar eventually wrote back on 23 December. 

Yesterday, the Taoiseach dismissed suggestions that Fine Gael’s demands about priority legislation, property tax reforms, and Fianna Fáil supporting the government rather than abstaining during votes, would be too big an ask for Martin.

“He set out his position in his letter and I set out my position in mine, which I sent just before Christmas,” Varadkar told reporters.

February election?

There’s informed speculation around Leinster House that the Taoiseach knows well he’s asking too much of Martin, and that the fallout could be a snap election.

Speaking to Ivan Yates on Newstalk this afternoon, Martin said Varadkar knows all too well that there is no way that Fianna Fáil will be voting in support of the government come the new term.

“He [Varadkar] knows that Fianna Fáil won’t be changing how we approach confidence and supply,” he said.

He said abstaining from votes rather than supporting government legislation has always been the basis of the confidence and supply arrangement between the two parties and that is not going to change now. 

When asked if this week’s meeting is all just a show, which will ultimately result in the Taoiseach calling an election next week, Martin said he takes it that “he [Varadkar] is entering into it in good faith, I certainly am”. 

“I can only take the Taoiseach in good faith,” he added.

The Fianna Fáil leader added that personally he still believes that April is a better period for an election, stating that the government should be focusing on the trolley crisis and not knocking on doors.

Martin said when he entered into the confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael, he said he would “behave honourably”. He said he is not going into Thursday’s meeting with Varadkar “to play games – that is not my approach”.

With the Dáil numbers in a delicate state, the Taoiseach will have to shore up support among the independents if this government is to continue, a point Martin also made this evening.

“If the Taoiseach wants to keep Dáil going till April… it is up to the Taoiseach to engage with other parties and independents,” he said, reiterating that Fianna Fáil won’t be backing Fine Gael in any key votes. 

“I think if Independent’s saw there was transparent agreement” that was agreed to in the “interest of country… I think others would follow,” said Martin.

Agreement over local property tax

Finance and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said today that reforms of the property tax must be agreed between the two parties.

Donohoe said the government will need to go ahead with a process of reform in relation to local property tax because a number of new homes being built are not paying any property tax. 

This means that some will see their neighbours paying no property tax while others do.

“So because of that the local property tax base needs to be included,” he said, adding that the local property legislation will have to move through the Dáil like any other piece of legislation.

Given the “very strong feelings” within the Dáil in relation to local property tax, Fianna Fáil will need to give “an enhanced form of cooperation” in relation to making changes to the local property tax system.

Donohoe said he wanted to make clear there can be no “orderly wind down” of the Dáil, something that Martin has called for.

“We need clarity within the Dáil, regarding the ability of the government to be able to do its business, and to continue to deliver very important pieces of legislation that meet the needs of our citizens or the ability to meet needs within the economy. And given the changing majority that we have in the Dáil… it’s vital the Taoiseach and Deputy Martin meet and see can an agreement be reached in this area”.

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