Micheál Martin calls for cool heads as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to talk
Paschal Donohoe says written agreement needed from discussion on minority government
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin at the Liam Lynch Commemoration at Newcastle , Co Tipperary. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has called for “space” and “cool heads” as negotiating teams from his party and Fine Gael prepare to begin substantive talks on the formation of a new government.
Mr Martin said on Sunday that Fianna Fail are “committed” to taking a responsible role to ensure that a minority government will have the support needed in the Dáil.
He and acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny will have “overseeing” roles while the negotiations are going on and that the parties’ respective teams will report on their progress to the party leaders, he said.
Mr Martin was speaking in Newcastle, Co Tipperary, where he gave the keynote speech at the 93red annual commemoration for Liam Lynch, one of the local IRA officers during the War of Independence.
He was welcomed to the area by local independent TD, Mattie McGrath, one of the so-called “rural five” who have been engaged in discussions with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael over the formation of a new government.
The Fianna Fail leader welcomed the initiation of the substantive talks process, as announced in tandem by the two largest parties on Saturday evening, on how a minority government could work.
“I think space is now required and I think we need cool heads and I think we need to focus on achieving this and realising this and certainly Fianna Fail are very committed to taking a responsible role here and ensuring that we can bring about the formation of a minority government,” Mr Martin told reporters.
“Democracy is changing, the nature of our parliamentary system is changing and I think we need to embrace that and that basically can be best reflected in the formation of a minority government.”
Fine Gael TD and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said on Sunday it was possible to do a deal by the time the Dáil reconvenes on Thursday.
“But there is a lot of work to be done and huge commitment is needed between now and Thursday. But if not Thursday shortly after that,” she told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.
Ms Fitzgerald said there would need to be agreements in place to form a minority government.
Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said there would need to be a written agreement from the talks between the two parties. A minority government led by Fianna Fail would not be stable, he told RTÉ’s This Week.
Independent TD Dr Michael Harty dismissed reports that the rural Independent TDs would not support Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.
Nearing a conclusion
Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said the process of forming a government was nearing a conclusion. He did not know if would happen by Thursday. “But I do think we are moving into an end game. We all want to put a government in place. We all want to get down to the work that the people expect us to do”, he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.
Mr Martin said that he made it clear in his Dáil speech last Wednesday, before “events subsequently overtook” that speech, “that we were prepared to support a Fine Gael-led minority government if they had the numbers in terms of the independents’ preferences, but likewise that Fine Gael should equally offer that similar view that they would be prepared to support a Fianna Fail-led minority government if the numbers fell in that direction.
“I actually articulated that in the Dáil and that remains my view but I think the fact that we now have initiated a process involving our negotiators, I think we should take it forward now and leave it at that and just give space and room to try and move it forward.”
He said Dáil reform is “well under way” under the chairmanship of Ceann Comhairle Sean Fearghail, and predicted “significant change” in how the Dáil does its business.
“The Dáil will be much more in command of its destiny now than it would have been heretofore when governments of the day tended to rule every single item on the agenda and determine what happened in the Dáil.”
Independent TDs spoken to by Fianna Fail in recent weeks gave negotiators a “very good reception,” he said.
“Obviously the independents were very anxious that both parties would get into the process that we are now in, in terms of ascertaining and working towards how would a minority government work.
“That has now happened and I’m not going to get into speculation as to who’s going to support who but what I can honestly say is that we’ve put forward very succinct, clear policy positions ranging from the health and housing issues right across of course to the issues of justice and transparency about how we appoint judges, for example, and I think we had very precise proposals and the independents welcomed that.”
Mattie McGrath, who was a Fianna Fail TD before leaving the party during the FF-Green coalition term, said it was “a pity” that his former party had ruled out a partnership government with Fine Gael, but welcomed the beginning of talks between the two parties.
“Before we can support a minority Government we have to have some idea about what the rules of engagement are — how many budgets will be passed and how will votes be held. It is not rocket science,” the independent TD said.