Micheál Martin expected to offer Taoiseach another year

Fianna Fáil leader to decide on renegotiating confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin:  will decide his next move after his negotiating team report back to him on progress of talks to date. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: will decide his next move after his negotiating team report back to him on progress of talks to date. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil negotiators may formally report back to party leader Micheál Martin as early as Thursday on talks with Fine Gael on the future of the arrangement which props up the minority Government.

Sources said Mr Martin will then take a day or two to make a decision on whether to enter into talks to renegotiate and extend the confidence-and-supply deal.

Some Fianna Fáil TDs have been privately assessing the attitudes of colleagues in the parliamentary party towards extending the arrangement.

The Cabinet also heard calls on Tuesday for certainty in the confidence-and-supply talks, with Finian McGrath, the Independent Minister of State, asking his Fine Gael colleagues for an update on the progress of the negotiations.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has asked Mr Martin to agree that the next election should take place in the summer of 2020, while Mr Martin has suggested that both should agree not to end the arrangement until the final stages of the Brexit process in late March.

Extra year

While Mr Martin has not shared his thinking on the current talks with colleagues, many believe he will offer an extra year to Mr Varadkar. It is expected that his negotiating team will report back to him on the progress of the talks to date – which have centred on a retrospective review of the operation of the current deal since its inception in spring 2016 – on  Thursday or next Tuesday. It will then be a matter for Mr Martin to decide his next move.

Representatives of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil held a session on Tuesday focusing on the Department of Finance. Derek Moran, secretary general of the department, took questions, and sources said Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman, pressed him on how much money there will be available in future budgets.

‘Fiscal stance’

Mr McGrath is understood to be concerned about a move by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in the run-up to the last budget which saw the Minister move away from setting out how much money is available to spend – the so-called “fiscal space” – to a different concept called the “fiscal stance”, which is an assessment of how much he believes it is right to spend.

Talks will focus on the Department of Jobs on Wednesday and Brexit policy on Thursday, with the Fianna Fáil team expected to report back to Mr Martin thereafter.

Some Fine Gael Ministers have privately said that Fianna Fáil should commit to public sector pay policy as part of an extension of the deal, with industrial strife expected in some quarters next year. Fianna Fáil sources say the party is committed to the existing public sector pay deal.