Fianna Fáil will not accept ‘artificial deadlines’ on Fine Gael deal

Martin rebukes Varadkar over suggestion of early conclusion to confidence and supply agreement

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has ruled out any attempt to rush a review of his party’s confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has ruled out any attempt to rush a review of his party’s confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has ruled out any attempt to rush a review of his party’s confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael.

In a sharp rebuke to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who suggested the talks on the extension of the agreement could be concluded by early November, Mr Martin said “we have no intention of accepting artificial deadlines or any proposal which would deny the thorough review which we envisaged when reaching agreement in 2016”.

He claimed that even this week Fine Gael sources were focused on “when it suits them to force an election” and “not on getting to grips with the housing and health emergencies or the cost of living crisis”.

He warned: “We need to put these games aside and to focus on the issues at hand.”

Mr Martin said it was clear there would be a deal on Brexit because the Taoiseach “has been trying to shift the ground from his claims last December and to broaden focus beyond the supposedly rock solid Northern Ireland backstop”.

But he stressed: “In case anyone tries to use the Brexit situation as an excuse for claiming there is instability, we have assured Ireland’s European partners of the stability of Ireland’s negotiating position and that nothing will be done to in any way interfere with a deal being done and implemented.”

The Fianna Fáil leader spent much of his Dáil speech on Budget 2019 criticising the Taoiseach and the Government and described their defining feature as “an obsession with spin and political positioning”.

He said the Government gave priority to “funding public relations, the endless streams of expensive videos, the regional promotion of Ministers, the constant relaunching of policies, the scapegoating of others for failures”.

One thing seems obvious, he said. “This is a Government which prefers to campaign than to govern.”

Citing “many journalists”, Mr Martin said there was a “prevailing mood among Ministers that they want to run to the country as quickly as possible because they are scared they will be found out if the Government lasts much longer”.

And he accused the Taoiseach of spending “much of this year trying to create an instability which would allow him to collapse his own Government”.

He said the preparation for this budget was worse than in recent years and basic figures were not available until the night before but after the promotional videos had been broadcast.

Mr Martin warned that in many areas explicitly within the confidence and supply agreement they had to review the departmental estimates before they were in a position to determine whether agreements had been honoured, particularly in the areas of health and childcare.

“The chronic and near-systematic failure of Government to follow words with action on the deepest challenges we face should concern everyone,” he added.

Fianna Fáil had been “entirely straight and honest” in the process despite the many difficulties and “provocations particularly over the last year”.

In his budget speech to the Dáil, Mr Varadkar’s only specific reference to Fianna Fáil was complimentary.

He had criticised some of the Opposition parties’ alternative budgets as astonishing and said they would greatly undermine Ireland’s economic performance.

“In marked contrast to that irresponsibility, I must acknowledge the constructive and positive role played by Fianna Fáil, the main Opposition party, in this the third budget under the confidence and supply arrangement.”

Mr Varadkar described Budget 2019 as “prudent and responsible, striking the right balance between improving living standards, tackling our structural challenges and securing our economy against the challenges we are likely to face ion the near future”.