Agreement on new coalition government expected over weekend
Frustration mounts around final sign-off of programme for government’s exact text
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan with deputy leader Catherine Martin: senior Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians do not know if Ms Martin will back the deal she has been negotiating over the past five weeks. Photograph: Eric Luke
Talks on a programme for government were continuing on Friday night amid expectation that an agreement would be concluded over the weekend, but also growing frustration that a final text had not yet been signed off by the negotiators.
Sources on all sides say that, barring last-minute hiccups, there are no substantial policy disagreements standing in the way of an agreement to form a coalition government, though talks on the precise text of the programme for government – expected to run to over 100 pages – will continue on Saturday and into Sunday, it is expected.
Green Party sources said Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had given way on their demand for increased measures to reduce agricultural emissions, specifically biogenic methane.
This was seen as crucial to the Greens in achieving their red line of a 7 per cent annual average reduction in carbon emissions to 2030.
Some Fine Gael sources suggested their party was being cautious in not rushing into an agreement compared to Fianna Fáil’s willingness to do a deal and concede to many Green demands, while Fianna Fáil sources expressed impatience with what they said was Fine Gael “dragging its heels”.
But it is on the Greens that most attention of political insiders is now focused. In particular, senior Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians, including some involved in the talks, say they do not know if deputy leader Catherine Martin will ultimately back the deal she has been negotiating over the past five weeks. Her support is likely to be crucial to any deal being approved by the two-thirds majority needed among Green members.
Both bigger parties say divisions in the Greens are apparent in the talks, though Ms Martin tweeted on Friday night in support of party leader Eamon Ryan after he was fiercely criticised by some party members for quoting a racially demeaning word in an anti-racism speech in the Dáil. Sources pointed out Ms Martin had waited more than 24 hours before expressing support.
Some Green sources say Ms Martin is keen to secure a deal she can support but others still said they had no clarity on whether she would back the deal.