Barbed exchanges intensify between Varadkar and Martin

Fianna Fáil leader claims the Taoiseach is trying to provoke him into an election

Micheál Martin: he said he had been clear since as early as last February that he wanted to pass a  third budget as committed to in the confidence and supply arrangement

Micheál Martin: he said he had been clear since as early as last February that he wanted to pass a third budget as committed to in the confidence and supply arrangement

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has claimed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael is trying to provoke him into an election, but insisted his party would not take the bait.

The two party leaders have been engaging in a public dispute over the renewal of the confidence and supply arrangement.

Responding to comments from Mr Varadkar in Brussels, Mr Martin accused the Taoiseach of being deliberately provocative and dishonest.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the Fianna Fáil leader said he had been clear since as early as last February that he wanted to pass the third budget as committed to in the confidence and supply arrangement.

“I think he needs to reflect on his behaviour. Does he want to call an election? Some Fine Gael TDs and Senators are saying to us he wants an election in the autumn, in September. The agenda is to provoke us into an election, but we will not take the bait.”

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil had set certain policy objectives in the confidence and supply arrangement, and had a right to see them through to their conclusion. He wanted to see the third budget passed, and for the review to begin at that point.

“The country needs fiscal stability, and he should reflect on the fact that Fianna Fáil has provided stability in the last 2½ years and stop playing political games.”

Argument

Earlier in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said he did not wish to get involved in a “tit-for-tat” argument when asked about Mr Martin’s comments on Wednesday evening, when the Fianna Fáil leader accused the Taoiseach of believing he has a “divine right to rule”.

“I don’t want to get involved in a tit-for-tat today,” Mr Varadkar said. “I’m here in Brussels doing important work on behalf of the Irish people.

“All I can say is that Fianna Fáil has been sending a lot of mixed messages about the confidence and supply agreement.

“Last month they were openly talking about voting in favour of a motion of no confidence in the housing Minister. This month they’re talking about not voting for the budget, so we really need to understand whether or not Fianna Fáil is committed to the confidence and supply agreement in the long term,” Mr Varadkar said.

The barbed exchanges between the two men have intensified in recent weeks. The Fianna Fáil leader has been especially critical of the Government’s handling of Brexit.