Government formation talks resolve ‘many’ outstanding issues

Timing of Catherine Martin’s Green leadership challenge ‘far from ideal’ - FF

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin. File photograph: Gareth Chaney

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin. File photograph: Gareth Chaney


Talks on government formation have concluded for the day with “many” outstanding issues dealt with, according to Fianna Fail.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party will continue to hold discussions aimed at forming a new coalition administration with negotiations taking place throughout the weekend. A meeting of the party leaders - Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan - took place today.

Afterwards, a Fine Gael spokesman said: “The three leaders had a constructive meeting and made progress on many outstanding issues. All parties will continue the talks tomorrow.”

Earlier, Fianna Fáil said the timing of Catherine Martin’s decision to challenge the leadership of the Green Party as government formation talks continue is “far from ideal”.

Mr Ryan’s deputy Ms Martin informed her supporters on Saturday that she would stand against him for the position of Green leader ahead of the close of nominations today.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said that while he expected to negotiations to continue in good faith, the timing of Ms Martin’s move was not ideal, as Ms Martin is currently leading the Green Party negotiating team in coalition talks.

“Ultimately, of course, it is a matter for the Greens but I would quote Catherine Martin herself and say that it is certainly less than ideal from a timing perspective. With regard to negotiations Catherine herself is part of those negotiations and we expect and she has stated that it’s in good faith. So we assume that situation will continue, but obviously it’s far is far from ideal,” he said on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

Green Party rules say that the leadership position must be opened within six months of a general election. The 2020 General Election was held on February 8th.

Ms Martin has around 200 nominations, well in excess of the 50 required.

Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe praised both Mr Ryan and Ms Martin but said “now is not the time to change horses mid-stream”. He was speaking on RTÉ radio.

Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan announced in a statement she will be calling for a change to the Green Party constitution so that membership would have the option of voting for a joint leadership.

“Unfortunately the Green Party constitution doesn’t allow for that option at the moment. I’m planning to put forward a motion at the annual party convention later this year calling for a change to the constitution. It’s too late for the current leadership contest, but I think more choice should be available to membership in the future.”

She said she would not be nominating either candidate - Mr Ryan or Mr Martin - this time around citing strong relationships with both.

Earlier on The Week in Politics, Ms O’Sullivan said both Ms Martin and Mr Ryan were focused on the talks process.

“Both are highly capable and competent, but they’re also people who will focus on the job at hand and I have no doubt in my mind that Catherine Martin and Eamon Ryan are focused on that. It just happens that there is a deadline today for nomination. I don’t think it will change the stakes in any respect at all.”

The chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Martin Heydon said while “good progress” was made in negotiations on Saturday, “there are some really significant outstanding areas as well”.

He said he was hopeful that a deal can be reached by next weekend but “it is by no means guaranteed”.

The key issues which are outstanding include the planned increase in the pension age, the debate around achieving a 7 per cent emissions reduction, a revision of the national development plan, and the transport budget.

Meanwhile Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said that independents have so far been “left out in the cold” in the talks.

Parties are aiming to have the bulk of the talks completed by Tuesday, although Tánaiste Simon Coveney indicated this weekend that it could be Thursday. Each party will then have to bring any proposed programme for government back to its membership for approval.

Mr Heydon on Sunday backed the idea of all parties co-ordinating their votes so that each result is announced on the same day.

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