Martin suggests ‘orderly wind-down’ of Government
Fianna Fáil leader’s comments raise prospect of agreed election timetable
Micheál Martin: confidence-and-supply agreement the most effective thing Fianna Fáil has done ‘to rebuild trust with the Irish people’. Photograph: James Forde
Mr Martin said an agreed conclusion would show that confidence and supply, the mechanism that sees his party facilitate the Fine Gael-led minority administration, can provide stable government.
The confidence-and-supply agreement lapses once Brexit takes effect and the legislation giving effect to the budget is passed.
Mr Martin’s comments, in an interview with The Irish Times, raise the prospect of an agreed election timetable with Mr Varadkar.
Many in Fine Gael who were recently advocating for a pre-Christmas election feared Mr Martin would collapse the Government early next year, during a health or homelessness controversy, if the UK had left the EU. But the deadline for the UK to leave the EU has now been extended from October 31st to January 31st, at the latest.
Mr Martin said he now wanted to reach a deal with the Taoiseach on how to bring the four-year arrangement to an end.
Mr Varadkar has said he wants the election to be held in May, while Mr Martin said he was open to a time frame of April or May, adding there was “not much between the two of us”.
He said: “You’re down to dates, you’re down to when. I think we’ve demonstrated that Irish politics can be mature, unlike like what’s happening in Britain.
“The Government hasn’t delivered in health or housing … but nonetheless, can we bring this to a reasonable, sensible conclusion that just demonstrates: ‘Here’s an exercise that has its critics, but it leads to government for a period of time?’
“And that may mean that we would engage in the new year in terms of facilitating an orderly wind-down of confidence and supply.”
He said the confidence-and-supply agreement has probably been “the most effective thing” Fianna Fáil has done “to rebuild trust with the Irish people”, although many in his own party, and those who are annoyed with current government policy, are not happy with it.
He said the next election would be a context between two “political visions”.
He said it would in essence be about a centre-left, social democratic vision offered by him, and a centre-right, Christian democratic vision offered by Mr Varadkar. Mr Martin also said he wanted to take on Mr Varadkar in a head-to-head leaders’ debate during the campaign.
He acknowledged that the recent controversy over some Fianna Fáil TDs voting for others in the Dáil chamber had damaged trust in the party.
“I think it damaged it to some degree. But I think it’s recoverable. The more fundamental issues on the doorsteps still remain housing, health – crime is emerging.”
His annoyance over the voting controversy was “shared by many party supporters because it was perceived as an unnecessary lapse and it was the wrong thing to do”.