Varadkar ‘stirring the pot’ over election talk, says Micheál Martin

Minority government: Confidence and supply deal effectively runs out after the October budget

Micheál Martin  said: “The confidence and supply agreement allows for a review at the end of the year, and that remains the case.” Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Micheál Martin said: “The confidence and supply agreement allows for a review at the end of the year, and that remains the case.” Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is “stirring the pot” with talk of a general election and should “cop on” as the country faces key tests such as Brexit.

Mr Martin also told The Irish Times he is “very concerned” about the October deadline to reach a withdrawal deal between the EU and Britain, indicating Fianna Fáil will not threaten the Government’s stability amid such uncertainty.

The Cork South Central TD’s comments came after Mr Varadkar claimed Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin could choose to cause an election. The Taoiseach also angered Fianna Fáil earlier this week by saying Mr Martin’s party could take “a kicking” if they did not support a threatened Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

Sinn Féin has yet to confirm, however, if it is tabling such a motion.

Yesterday, Mr Martin accused Fine Gael and Sinn Féin of “talking up” an election.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar: completed review will be presented to the Oireachtas no later than September 2018. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Taoaiseach Leo Varadkar has said he has “no interest” in a snap election. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

“Some Fine Gael TDs – including the Taoiseach – have been stirring the pot,” Mr Martin said, adding that Mr Varadkar needs to “cop on”.

The confidence and supply agreement allows for a review at the end of the year, and that remains the case

The confidence and supply deal underpinning the minority government effectively runs out after the October budget, and Mr Varadkar has said he wants to extend the arrangement.

Review

Mr Martin said: “The confidence and supply agreement allows for a review at the end of the year, and that remains the case.”

He insisted his party had provided the country with “much-needed stability” by striking the deal in 2016, and intends to stick to its commitment to honour three budgets. This includes passing of the associated finance and social welfare Bills.

As well as what he called “major crises” in the areas of health and housing, Mr Martin also mentioned rural broadband as one of the main issues on which he will pursue the Government.

Mr Varadkar yesterday said he has “no interest” in a snap election.

Fianna Fáil has honoured the agreement to date, as have we, but obviously I can’t speak for them

“My focus is on securing jobs and the economy, negotiating Brexit, building more houses and dealing with some of the issues in healthcare. But if Fianna Fáil wants to cause an election by refusing to renew the confidence and supply agreement or if Sinn Féin wants to cause it through a motion of no confidence well they will be the cause of it.”

Abstaining

He said he has “no reason” to believe Fianna Fáil would support a motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy. The confidence and supply agreement commits Fianna Fáil to abstaining on such motions.

“Fianna Fáil has honoured the agreement to date, as have we, but obviously I can’t speak for them.”

Government sources said any extension to confidence and supply would have to be for a “substantial period”.

“We are not talking about of an extension of weeks or months,” said one Minister. One senior Government figure said the existing deal has “no expiry date” and should run for the full, five-year Dáil term.

It was also claimed that Mr Varadkar wants talks on an extended deal to begin well before the end of the year.

“Micheál Martin seems to think it’s Christmas week – after the Budget, social welfare, appropriations and finance Bill are done. It’s good practice to start before the deadline, not the day of.”