FF angered by FG demand for costing of agreement proposals
Parties set to begin negotiations on review of confidence-and-supply agreement
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Tuesday asked his front bench to come forward with concerns they have about lack of delivery by the Government in their policy areas. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
The two parties are to begin negotiations on Thursday on a review of the deal which underpins the Fine Gael-led minority government, although both have different views on how speedily the process should conclude.
Fianna Fáil insists that a review of the deal, struck in May 2016, to date must take place first, while Fine Gael is keen to negotiate an extension of the arrangement which would allow the Government continue in office.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has proposed that he and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin extend the deal and agree that the date of the next general election takes place in summer 2020. Mr Martin has countered that a review must happen first and has also proposed that he and Mr Varadkar agree not to collapse the Government until the Brexit withdrawal agreement is ratified by both the British House of Commons and the European Parliament, which would take the Government up to March.
Mr Varadkar’s spokesman yesterday said that any requests as part of the talks process should be subject to “rigorous financial planning” and everything should be “fully costed”.
The spokesman also said it had been over 50 days since Mr Varadkar wrote to Mr Martin asking to begin negotiations. In that August letter, Mr Varadkar also set out a number of specific policies he wants to enact if the deal is extended.
Senior Fianna Fáil figures reacted angrily to the warning about financial discipline, with one saying: “Let it start first. Goading and counter-goading is not conducive to a productive process.”
They added that the review is about “delivery of what’s agreed, or lack thereof” and pointed out that Mr Varadkar made a list of demands in his August letter to Mr Martin.
Mr Martin asked his front bench yesterday to come forward with concerns they have about lack of delivery in their policy areas. He asked that the senior TDs pass on any such details to the Fianna Fáil negotiating team, comprised of deputy leader Dara Calleary, finance spokesman Michael McGrath, Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers and agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue.
The Fine Gael team is led by Tánaiste Simon Coveney and includes Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty and Martin Heydon, the chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.
The initial deal between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael was signed before the Brexit referendum in the UK was passed. The confidence-and-supply document does not mention Brexit, and Fianna Fáil sources said the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union would have to feature in the review.
“Given it’s the greatest challenge, and going through such a critical phase, it will have to be discussed,” a Fianna Fáil party source said.