Martin scotches prospect of early confidence and supply review

‘We need less political manoeuvring and positioning. It is completely premature’

Micheál Martin: the Fianna Fáil leader was bemused to read reports of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s intentions to approach Fianna Fáil during the summer with a view to starting a review. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Micheál Martin: the Fianna Fáil leader was bemused to read reports of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s intentions to approach Fianna Fáil during the summer with a view to starting a review. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has firmly scotched any prospect of a review of his party’s confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael before October’s budget.

Mr Martin said he was bemused to read reports of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s intentions to approach Fianna Fáil during the summer with a view to starting a review.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Martin said the terms of the agreement were clear and it specifically referred to a review taking place at the end of 2018, and not before then.

“The confidence and supply agreement was for three budgets. When the third budget has been delivered in October, there is provision for a review to start, but only then,” he said.

“We will not be moving from that position. There will be no premature examination or review of an agreement that is operating and still in place.”

Confidence motions

The agreement commits Fianna Fáil to support three budgets as well as supporting any confidence motions in the Government that takes place on the floor of the Dáil.

The agreement came perilously close to collapse in late November when Fianna Fáil tabled a no confidence motion in former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Last week The Irish Times reported Mr Varadkar would approach Mr Martin seeking to extend the confidence and supply agreement after the abortion referendum had taken place and before the summer recess.

Fine Gael sources said at the time it saw this as the “natural window” in which to begin negotiations.

In an interview before Christmas, Mr Varadkar confirmed he would like early engagement on this issue. He said it would not happen early in the year.

“[It will not happen] in the first quarter, no, but I wouldn’t like to see it drop dead the day after the budget either. That wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest and it would not be in the best interests of the country certainly to have a government on budget night with confidence and supply agreement but not the day after,” he said.

“So I imagine that conversation will be had at some stage next year but it is not a conversation I have had yet with Micheál Martin so I probably should have it first.”

Nonplussed

Mr Martin said he was nonplussed by this and that nobody in Fine Gael had mentioned it to him.

“I met with Leo Varadkar only this week and there was no mention of it.

“As I said, we are committed to three budgets. Two budgets have been passed.

“We are focused on the delivery of the agreement and focused on getting movement on housing and health in particular, and in the rural economy and broadband.

“We need less political manoeuvring and positioning. It is completely premature.”

The agreement states that both parties will review the framework agreement at the end of 2018.

There does remain the possibility that Fianna Fáil could agree to extend the agreement for another year, which would allow the local and European election to take place in advance of the next general election.

However, if economic performance matches projections, it means the Government will have considerably more financial resources at its disposal over the next two budgets than it had in last October’s budget.