General election would have been held in 2019 ‘if not for Brexit’

Lisa Chambers says FF decision to extend confidence and supply agreement was ‘absolutely dictated’ by Brexit crisis

Lisa Chambers TD :“If it were not for Brexit, there would be an election now.”  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Lisa Chambers TD :“If it were not for Brexit, there would be an election now.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

The State would be facing into a general election in the new year if it had not been for the uncertainty over Brexit, according to a Fianna Fáil TD involved in the confidence and supply negotiations.

Lisa Chambers took part in the six-week review of the agreement which for the best part of three years has propped up the Fine Gael-led minority Government.

Ms Chambers said that “abysmal failures” in the health and housing sectors had become apparent during the negotiations and that “if it were not for Brexit, there would be an election now”.

Her comments suggest that party leader Micheál Martin’s decision to extend the agreement was made wholly on the basis of the continuing Brexit crisis, notwithstanding what was found in the review.

There was widespread criticism of Fianna Fáil for its refusal to disclose any details of what had been agreed by the parties when extending the deal.

Ms Chambers said the review was a standalone exercise and that the decision to extend was “absolutely dictated” by Brexit.

‘Slight edginess’

“The difficulty for us as a party was it was not for us to put the interests of the country in peril [at a crucial moment in the Brexit process] by precipitating an election.”

Fine Gael chairman Martin Heydon, a member its negotiating team, said the review process was a worthwhile process, notwithstanding his party’s initial reluctance to be involved in such a drawn-out exercise.

“We did an in-depth analysis and and Fianna Fáil was able to get a real insight into the challenges and the failures in different sectors, with high-level briefings from [senior officials].”

“There was a slight edginess at the beginning, perhaps at the first meeting, but both forged good relations,” he said.

Mr Heydon said the agreement would allow for stability and was “the right thing to do”. He compared Mr Martin’s decision to what former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes did in 1987 with the Tallaght Strategy, where he committed his party to support the budgetary strategy of the then Fianna Fáil government and taoiseach Charles Haughey.