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Varadkar says FG would consider supporting FF if it won most seats — but not if it had a larger coalition

The Taoiseach has said he wants to have a general election in May 2020.

Who will be Taoiseach after the election?
Who will be Taoiseach after the election?
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Updated Fri 4:30 PM

IF FINE GAEL comes second to Fianna Fáil in the upcoming general election, the party would “have to be willing” to enter negotiations for a confidence and supply agreement, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Varadkar’s Fine Gael government has been kept in power through the current agreement with Fianna Fáil, and the Taoiseach said yesterday he wanted the country to go to the polls in May 2020.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme, Varadkar said he felt Fianna Fáil had “done the right thing” by supporting the government as the risks associated with Brexit have remained.

After the 2016 general election, Fianna Fáil eventually agreed to support Fine Gael in power for three budgets, by committing to not bring down the government or vote against it on key votes, as long as Fine Gael upheld its end of the bargain.

This support has continued into this year, with the ongoing Brexit threats meaning Fianna Fáil hasn’t brought down the government yet. 

“If the shoe is on the other foot, we would have to give consideration in that circumstance”, he said when asked if Fine Gael would support a Fianna Fáil government if Micheál Martin’s party held the most seats but without a majority after the next election. 

Any confidence and supply agreement would have to reflect Fine Gael policies, he added.

Grand coalition

Varadkar also faced questions about confidence and supply from reporters at the Fine Gael think-in in east Cork today.

He clarified that his party would only consider supporting Fianna Fáil in the arrangement if the Soldiers of Destiny won more seats in the next Dáil. It would not do so if Fianna Fáil garnered less seats but managed to build a larger coalition.

He explained:

We certainly would not entertain a situation whereby we were the largest party in the Dáil and were then somehow asked to facilitate the second, fourth and fifth party in forming a government.

When asked whether he’s confident that he would still be at the helm of Fine Gael should such a scenario come to pass Varadkar said he will want to remain on as leader.

“Our party rules are there for anyone to see, if after an election we’re not forming a government then there’s a ballot of Oireachtas members whether they want me to continue or not but I will want to continue in that circumstance,” he said.

‘No free pass’

While signalling Fine Gael may support Fianna Fáil in such a circumstance, Varadkar also went on the attack in radio interviews this morning.

The Taoiseach accused Fianna Fáil of “promising everything to everyone” and said that just because they haven’t collapsed the government yet “doesn’t give them a free pass”.

Speaking earlier to Newstalk Breakfast, Varadkar said “with every election it’s difficult” when asked how he rated his party’s chances next year.

“I think the two main parties are evenly matched,” he said. “People will be deciding whether they want me or Micheál Martin to be Taoiseach.”

Earlier this week, Martin said it was the right decision to wait until next year for a general election.

“There can’t be an election if the prospect of a no-deal is there on the horizons,” he said. 

“Our preference is to be the lead party in a government with smaller parties… I think there will be a fragmented Dáil in the next election”, Martin said, adding that the ‘two-party system’ of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is “gone”. 

With reporting from Christina Finn

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Sean Murray

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