Ireland may not have new government until mid-June, Coveney says

Varadkar defends ‘aspirational’ FG-FF policy plan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he had agreed with Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin that no decision on a rotating taoiseach or the allocation of ministerial portfolios would be taken until they could also be discussed with a third coalition partner.

Speaking on RTE’s Prime Time on Tuesday night, Mr Varadkar accepted that the document agreed between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on the formation of a new Government was “aspirational” but said it was specifically designed not to act as a “fait accompli” to be presented to any other coalition partner.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, meanwhile, has suggested a government may not be formed until mid-June.

Mr Varadkar expressed hope that potential coalition partners like the Green Party, Social Democrats, Labour and groups of independent TDs were “up for this” as the country needed a stable government.


On housing, the Taoiseach said he believed it would be realistic to provide 10,000-12,000 new social housing units each year over the next five years.

Asked if he had a preference about becoming Taoiseach first under the new Government, Mr Varadkar replied: “It sounds like a line but it really is true - it so isn’t about me I will do this job to the best of my ability for so long as I hold it.”

Mr Varadkar said it would be a privilege to act as Taoiseach but warned that forming a Government now was “not for the faint hearted” as the as the country faced a very different situation to the time of the general election.

A six-strong group of Independent TDs have said they would have an open mind about joining a Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led coalition ahead of their first meeting with both parties last night.

The Rural Group of Deputies said they had no principled objection to going into government, but did not know if the two larger parties wanted them as part of its coalition.

“If they want us, if they are really interested in us becoming part of their government, we will find out about it tonight,” said the Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath ahead of the meeting in Agriculture House on Kildare Street.

Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae said afterwards that he opposed any increases in taxes to lower climate emissions as is being talked about by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens. He said now was not the time to be making such suggestions.

The Rural Group is the third group of Independents to meet Fine Gael, which was represented at the talks yesterday by Paschal Donohoe, and Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary since Monday. The rural group is composed of Mr McGrath, Michael Healy-Rae, Danny Healy-Rae, Richard O’Donoghue, Michael Collins and Carol Nolan. Privately, sources from the two larger parties have expressed doubt that the Rural Group as a whole would be a realistic partner for them in government.

Third-party involvement

In talks, Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney has been putting huge emphasis on his party’s insistence that it does not want to go into a coalition unless a third party is involved. It is understood that Mr Coveney was asked by Michael Lowry of the Regional Group on Monday if Fine Gael had a plan B in the event of not securing support from a third party. He did not respond to the question.

The Fine Gael “reference group” chaired by Richard Bruton also met on Tuesday afternoon. This comprises the party’s Ministers; Minister of State Helen McEntee; party chairman Martin Heydon; South MEP Seán Kelly; and Councillors Barry Saul and Michael Murphy.

The group has the task of assessing what is agreed by Fine Gael negotiators during government-formation talks to ensure it accords with Fine Gael principles.

Meanwhile, the Green Party is expected to publish its response to the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil framework document by the end of the week. The party criticised its vagueness and will seek clarity on some of the key measures, particularly in relation to climate change.

One of its TDs said the response would be more of a document than questions as there were “a lot of things that were not addressed” in the framework document that should have been.

At a meeting of the Fine Gael executive council last night, Mr Coveney suggested a government may not be formed until mid-June. He also told those at the meeting that Fine Gael had no need to fear an election if that was the only option.