Individual government deals on the table for regional Independent TDs

Eight-strong group holds meeting with Martin, Varadkar and Ryan

Tipperary TD Michael Lowry, a member of the Regional Independent group, said it was an interesting and informative meeting, and  the three party leaders were ‘pragmatic’ in their approach. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Tipperary TD Michael Lowry, a member of the Regional Independent group, said it was an interesting and informative meeting, and the three party leaders were ‘pragmatic’ in their approach. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

TDs forming the Regional Independents group have been told they can examine a government deal struck by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens as a single entity or as individual TDs.

The eight-strong group held a meeting with the three party leaders - Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan - in Government Buildings on Thursday.

The group was told the three parties hoped to agree a programme for government next week, present it to their parliamentary parties and then send it to the Independents.

It is understood there was no discussion on ministerial jobs or other posts, but sources at the meeting said they expected there would be no ministerial jobs for Independents in a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Green Party coalition.

The group of TDs was told they can go through a programme for government as a group or as individuals.

Sources present took this to mean individual deals would be on the table for TDs. Any backing for such an administration would mean offering support from outside government

Tipperary TD Michael Lowry, a member of the Regional Independents group, said it was an interesting and informative meeting. Mr Lowry said the three party leaders were “pragmatic” in their approach.

Sources said Mr Martin opened the meeting, followed by Mr Varadkar and Mr Ryan. The three leaders were said to be “relaxed”.

“It looks to me like they are getting comfortable with each other,” one TD said. As well as Mr Lowry, the other members of the Regional Independents are Denis Naughten, the group’s convener, Verona Murphy, Cathal Berry, Sean Canney, Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish and Matt Shanahan.

There were no references to deals struck between Independents and governments in the past.

A reference by Mr Varadkar to the political pact between former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the late Jackie Healy-Rae in a meeting with a smaller group of Independents on Wednesday angered some non-party TDs.

Some members of the group privately speculated that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens are likely to want the support of only four or five Independents from the group.

Talks are continuing between the three parties and are expected to run through the weekend, ahead of a hoped for conclusion by Tuesday or Wednesday.

The main sticking points are said to be how exactly to achieve the Green Party’s target of reducing Ireland’s carbon emissions by an average of 7 per cent per year and the difference of opinion between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on raising the eligibility age of the State pension.

The pension age is due to rise to 67 next year, and Fine Gael want to introduce a transition payment for people who retire at 66. Fianna Fáil wants the increase in the age deferred pending a review.

It is expected that the issue will be decided among the party leaders. Progress is being made in other contentious areas, such as housing and how to reduce the deficit.