Fianna Fáil and Greens discuss possible revision of National Development Plan
Green Party opposes a promised €6bn investment in major roads as part of the project
Fianna Fáil negotiations steering group: Anne Rabbitte, Thomas Byrne, Dara Calleary, Jack Chambers and Darragh O’Brien. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have discussed a potential revision of the Government’s National Development Plan (NDP) which commits to a multibillion-euro investment in road projects around the country.
The Green Party has said it opposes a planned €6 billion investment in major roads as part of the NDP and that this money could instead be used on public transport and to meet environmental objectives.
One source said both parties set out “different positions” on the issue but the need to revise the plan “to make it realistic” was also discussed. During the election campaign, Fianna Fáil promised to green-light several major road projects such as the M20 between Cork and Limerick and the A5 between Donegal and Derry.
The Green Party, on the other hand, said during the campaign the proposed M20 project “makes no sense”. Speaking after talks with Fianna Fáil concluded on Thursday, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the NDP would have to be reviewed.
He said this would have to be done to meet the target of reducing emissions by 50 per cent in the coming years. Any scrapping of road projects could prove problematic for the larger parties who would likely come under pressure from their TDs and constituents.
There was no agreement on the path forward in relation to the NDP and this seems unlikely to happen unless and until fuller negotiations on a programme for government take place.
Mr Ryan said the Green Party would enter into talks with Fine Gael on Monday and Tuesday and would then speak to the Social Democrats on Wednesday.
Sinn Féin is also scheduling further talks with parties for next week, while a meeting between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on policy is also being arranged.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil has denied changing its position on a rent freeze and said previous legal advice received by the party on the matter had not changed either.
The party’s housing spokesman, Darragh O’Brien, said while the issue of a rent freeze was mentioned in discussions with the Green Party on Wednesday, there had been no change in the party’s position that such a freeze would be unconstitutional.
Earlier reports on Thursday suggested Fianna Fáil was set to drop its opposition to the measure. “Our position has not changed on it. The legal advice that we got is the same as what we got a number of weeks before the election. There has been no change on that. What we are willing to do on many matters is to look at what others will say,” Mr O’Brien said.
Mr O’Brien said the “issue of rents and renters and how we can help renters” arose as part of that discussion and that “a rent freeze was mentioned”.
Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary said the party was keeping its grassroots involved in the negotiating process.
A Fianna Fáil ardfheis would have to approve any programme for government with the Greens and Fine Gael, for example.
“The most important work at the moment is that we have a policy platform that delivers for people. Once we put the policies in place, and if we get agreement on policies with various groups, then we approach the issue of dialogue with our members,” Mr Calleary said.
There was speculation on Thursday night that a vote for the next taoiseach would happen next week, despite a decision by the Oireachtas business committee not to allow this go ahead due to a lack of progress in government-formation talks.
A committee source said no request had yet been made for the vote to go ahead, but the committee may have to meet again in the coming days to discuss the matter afresh.
Separately, the Labour Party has arranged five leadership hustings between the two contenders, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Alan Kelly. They will take place between March 2nd and March 21st.