Break­through in talks to form new govern­ment

Joint state­ment says Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil now ‘work­ing to de­velop a pro­gramme’

The Irish Times - - Front Page - PAT LEAHY, JENNIFER BRAY HARRY McGEE

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have re­ported a break­through in talks on a new govern­ment, with both sides ex­pect­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on a new ad­min­is­tra­tion to ac­cel­er­ate in the com­ing weeks.

In an agreed state­ment is­sued by both par­ties last night, they said they had a “pro­duc­tive meet­ing” yes­ter­day af­ter­noon and agreed the “need to form a strong, sta­ble govern­ment that will help Ire­land re­cover post-Covid-19”.

“They are work­ing to de­velop a pro­gramme for govern­ment that pro­vides sta­bil­ity and ma­jor­ity sup­port in the Dáil,” the state­ment said.

This is the first men­tion of a pro­gramme for govern­ment – the key agreed doc­u­ment that would un­der­pin any new ad­min­is­tra­tion – af­ter weeks of talks and was re­garded by both sides as a break­through, sources said last night.

But the Green Party sig­nalled clearly again yes­ter­day that it would not be in­volved in any coali­tion with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, mean­ing that other small par­ties or a large num­ber of In­de­pen­dent TDs will be re­quired if any new ad­min­is­tra­tion is to have a ma­jor­ity in the Dáil.

Dáil ma­jor­ity

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil be­lieve that a new govern­ment must have a sus­tain­able Dáil ma­jor­ity if it is to last.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Govern­ment Build­ings,

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar stressed that any new govern­ment needed a “work­ing ma­jor­ity”.

“I think we need a govern­ment that’s go­ing to last, that will last till 2024 and 2025,” Mr Varad­kar said.

“It’s go­ing to need a work­ing ma­jor­ity, and that means it’s go­ing to re­quire more than Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

Mr Varad­kar said that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would need “at least 10 more TDs . . . to take the whip, stay the course, be will­ing to make the tough de­ci­sions as well as the pop­u­lar ones for the next four years”.

While the coro­n­avirus cri­sis means the Dáil is un­likely to vote on any new govern­ment for some weeks, both par­ties now ac­cept they need to agree a pro­gramme for govern­ment and es­tab­lish a new ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Be­cause the cur­rent Seanad leaves office this week­end – and the new Seanad can­not be com­pleted un­til there is a new taoiseach to make his 11 nom­i­na­tions to it – the govern­ment can­not pass any more leg­is­la­tion through the Oireach­tas af­ter this week.

This con­sti­tu­tional road­block has “focused minds” in the two par­ties, sources said.

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