Independent Alliance not to seek revised government programme
Group says it may use election of new Fine Gael leader to raise fresh issues
Independent Alliance members Shane Ross, John Halligan and Finian McGrath at the grouping’s press conference in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Independent Alliance has insisted it will not seek to renegotiate the Programme for Government on the election of a new Fine Gael leader.
The group, which consists of Minister for Transport Shane Ross and three Ministers of State, said it may use the opportunity to raise new issues but would not seek a redrawing of the agreement reached with the party.
Mr Ross stressed the Alliance had no preference on who should be appointed to replace Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.
He said: “That is a matter for Fine Gael. It is certainly not to us who is the next leader. We have no intention of going out and aggressively demanding all sorts of new things. It will be an opportunity to refresh and to implement new ideas.”
Mr Kenny is expected to announce, within the next two weeks, his decision to stand aside as Fine Gael leader.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney are the front-runners to replace him.
Both are expected to make changes to the make-up of the next Cabinet but the alliance, which supports the Government, insisted they did not anticipate being removed from their portfolios.
The group held a press conference yesterday outlining its achievements in the first year of government.
The Alliance listed the reduction in prescription charges, the provision of medical cards for those in receipt of domiciliary care allowance and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly examining the eighth amendment as achievements.
However, commitments to reopen Stepaside Garda station, the provision of 24/7 cardiac care in Waterford University Hospital and to open a new emergency department in Beaumont Hospital have not yet been fulfilled.
Mr Ross expects an announcement on Stepaside to be made in a matter of weeks by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.
The Dublin Bay South TD said he was unapologetic in calling for the reopening of the station, closed as part of wide cuts in 2013. “I do not see any reason why Stepaside would not be included. I expect Stepaside to be included.”
Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath said he expected movement on the emergency department in Beaumont soon, insisting it would be part of the capital plan to be announced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Pascal Donohoe later this year.
The group insisted it had no regrets about entering government despite slumping to 2 per cent in recent opinion polls.
Mr McGrath said it had not been a popular decision but claimed the country would have faced a series of elections had they not agreed to support Fine Gael.
On future coalitions, Minister of State at the Department of Jobs John Halligan confirmed the alliance was willing to speak to any party that wanted to talk to it, including Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.
Mr McGrath went on to say he thanked Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin every day for keeping the Government in office.
Four of the five members of the alliance insisted they would be standing for re-election whenever one takes place.
However, Mr Halligan said he would consider his position at that point, stressing he has been in politics since he was 16 years old.
Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Seán Canney also confirmed he would be vacating his position on June 2nd to allow for Kevin “Boxer” Moran to take over.