Fianna Fáil put public ahead of party for deal with Government – Martin

Coveney praises ‘maturity’ of FF agreement that there be no election until 2020

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: “People will not be happy with this decision within the party. I think the general public will be.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: “People will not be happy with this decision within the party. I think the general public will be.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Some members of Fianna Fáil will be unhappy with the decision to extend the confidence-and-supply deal until 2020, Micheál Martin has acknowledged.

Mr Martin, however, said his move to underpin the Fine Gael-led minority government for more than another year will please members of the public generally.

His comments echo a private message he has made to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party in recent weeks: that they must pay attention to the views of the electorate at large as well as the party grass roots, who generally dislike the confidence-and-supply deal.

“It is a very difficult decision,” Mr Martin said. “People will not be happy with this decision within the party. I think the general public will be.”

He said the extension was being offered because of ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, and claimed there would be an election otherwise.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said Fine Gael had no intention of calling an election until the first half of 2020, in line with the extended deal.

Mature decision

Mr Coveney thanked Fianna Fáil for the “maturity” of their decision, and said the Irish political system had reacted well to the challenges of Brexit.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had proposed to Mr Martin last summer that they both agree to hold the next election in the summer of 2020.

Fianna Fáil has repeatedly accused Fine Gael of agitating for an early election, a charge Mr Martin repeated yesterday, saying his party had refused to “respond to the Taoiseach’s attempts over recent months to find an excuse to increase instability and undermine his own government”.

However, there were senior figures in both parties – Cabinet ministers and frontbench spokespeople – who privately favoured an election sooner rather than later.

Some in Government circles have also advocated that Mr Varadkar should go to the country next spring, if a Brexit withdrawal deal is passed and a transition period is in place, even if the confidence-and-supply deal was extended.

No date agreed

Mr Coveney, who led the Fine Gael negotiating team in the talks with Fianna Fáil over reviewing the deal, said his party did not intend to call an early election.

“The Taoiseach has been consistent for many months that he would like to set a date and agree it now for May 2020, whether that date is the date of the next election or not remains to be seen but we now know that this Government will go into 2020 and can plan accordingly.”

Fianna Fáil did not agree to an election date, but Mr Martin said the contest would be held in spring 2020.

Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael agreed that the existing confidence-and-supply document does not have to be redrafted, and that its core principles remain.

Mr Coveney said: “It is as relevant now as it was when it was put together, and I think it will allow the Government to proceed with the certainty that we are not going to get pulled down and we are not left wondering week to week, month to month, if there is going to be an election.”