Greens rule out government talks with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael

‘We will not be engaging in anything other than discussions for a unity or national government’

Green whip Neasa Hourigan was adamant that the party decision was final. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Green whip Neasa Hourigan was adamant that the party decision was final. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Green Party has categorically ruled out any government formation talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as the Covid-19 crisis continues.

Neasa Hourigan, the Greens’ whip and finance spokeswoman, said the focus of politicians should now be “completely on public health and safety”.

“We have reached a very clear decision and consensus [within the Greens] that we will not be engaging in anything other than discussions for a unity or national government,” Ms Hourigan said.

She was adamant the decision was final. “We have decided as a group there will be no other type of decision from our side,” she said.

Ms Hourigan said the party has rejected the option of a narrower coalition involving Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, or with Independents. She also said the party has come to the view that all the current key Ministers should remain in place, as it believed introducing new ministers at this time would be counterproductive.

The other parties in government would be contributing to a unity or national government largely from outside key ministries under the scenario being put forward by the Greens.

“We have been trying to do is craft a proposal for national government or unity government,” Ms Hourigan, a TD for Dublin Central, said.

“We have looked at different systems such as D’Hondt and a matrix [systems for allocating ministries according to party strength].

“We will have to find a version that works for everyone. We are open to more stakeholder versions. Changing ministers at this moment might be problematic.”

She said civil servants were “already stretched to the limit” and so the idea of introducing a new minister in charge of a Government Department would be counterproductive.

“That is a recognition that to be changing people around now is not where we should be focusing our energy. The apparatus of government is working. Good work is being done at the moment.

“Bringing new people in is not the best option in our opinion.”

Setting out the party’s opposition to coalition talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, Ms Hourigan said forming such a government would be disruptive and would run counter to dealing with the national emergency caused by Covid-19.

There has also been strong internal opposition to such a government among the Green membership on the basis that it would not sufficiently reflect the change agenda expressed by voters in the General Election on February 8th.

Ms Hourigan has said the party has been working behind the scenes on its proposal and has had informal discussions with other parties, including Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats. No substantive discussions have taken place with either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael in the past 10 days.

She said if Ministers remained in place, such an administration would have to include input from all parties before key decisions were made, to ensure that there was broad national agreement on policy and strategy in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.

She said there a time limit would be necessary on such an administration to coincide with the end of the crisis. “At this moment it looks more six months than three months. It’s something that could be reviewed and we could see where we are when we get there,” she said.

Sinn Féin has in the past week signalled a willingness to explore the idea of a unity or national government during the course of the crisis. A party source said on Wednesday it was not the party’s preferred option but we are “not fundamentally opposed to it and we are willing to talk to people about it”.

The source said Sinn Féin did not think it was a likely scenario, as the indications were Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would strive for an agreement, even in the absence of the Greens.