FF and FG confident of concluding talks

Main parties make ‘really good progress’ on joint framework document for government

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: The document will be flexible and open enough to appeal to smaller parties as potential partners in government.   Photograph: Leon Farrell

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: The document will be flexible and open enough to appeal to smaller parties as potential partners in government. Photograph: Leon Farrell

 

Negotiators for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael could not reach agreement on a joint framework document for government on Friday evening but both sides expressed confidence they could conclude talks over the weekend.

Talks between both parties concluded shortly before 7pm on Friday evening on the draft document which now runs to about 20 pages.

Speaking afterwards, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said both parties made “really good progress” on the document itself.

“There is more drafting work to be done over the weekend. I am pretty confident that early next week we will have an agreed paper,” he said on RTÉ.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that when the document was signed off by the negotiating teams it would then be reviewed for endorsement by the two party leaders, he and Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin.

Mr Varadkar said that would take place later next week, at which time they could share it with smaller parties, the Green Party, Labour and the Social Democrats.

“We will need that third pillar – we’ll be encouraging one or more of [the three] to join us,” he said.

Third party

Fine Gael is insistent on having a third party in government, while Fianna Fáil has expressed the view that it would be preferable.

One person close to the negotiations said the document set out broad principles and made particular reference to the need to stimulate the economy and restore jobs in the wake of the deep economic contraction caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It was also very flexible, said the source, making it very attractive and accessible to smaller third parties.

Another source said: “There were some drafting changes made on Friday that need to be processed over the weekend. I think we will be in a position to give it the nod early next week.”

Also on Friday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the document would be flexible and open enough to appeal to smaller parties which may be potential partners in government.

“The document that I think will be agreed will reflect two things,” he said.

Economic reality

“Firstly, the message we heard on February 8th [the general election], and the second thing is the economic reality where we are now post-Covid-19.”

He said he believed there would be a sufficient basis in the document to allow a situation where “other smaller parties will want to play a part in it with us”.

Asked was it now a done deal between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and would the two leaders formally agree, Mr Donohoe said: “The formal endorsement isn’t on it but, look, it’s very likely that it will be on it.

“Each negotiation team is in contact with the party leader all the time.

“This is just a final step where they’ll want to see what emerges at the meetings that happen today and make sure they are happy with any changes that happen during the day.

“But it is the case that up to this point, in our own party, the Taoiseach has been well aware of all that we are doing and he will just want to see does the end product look different to where we were during the week.”

Mr Donohoe said the Government would be facing huge challenges with large numbers of jobless, the economy in deep deficit and a global contraction of unprecedented scale.