Parties seeking ‘genuine partnership’ regardless of who is taoiseach, says Martin

Fianna Fáil leader says country needs government making long-term decisions

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has refused to be drawn out on who will be the first taoiseach of the new government, saying that parties agree there must be a “genuine partnership”, regardless of who becomes taoiseach.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Green Party representatives met on Monday for the first session of detailed policy negotiations in the protracted process of government formation.

The parties are understood to have discussed justice issues and are expected to move onto financial and economic matters on Wednesday, when a series of briefings from senior officials are expected.

The briefings are likely to dwell on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the state’s response to it, on the public finances and the overall economic outlook.

The parties have agreed a schedule and a structure for the talks. It is understood that Fianna Fail is anxious to progress the talks quickly, a view shared by some - though not all - senior figures in Fine Gael.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show on Tuesday, Mr Martin said: “Both parties agree it has to be a genuine partnership, that is accepted from day one irrespective of who is taoiseach.”

The Fianna Fáil leader said it was still early days in the negotiations. “We will know a lot more at the end of this week,” he said.

Mr Martin dismissed concerns that some members of his party are waiting to replace him.“It doesn’t faze me, that’s not part of my calculations,” he told the programme.

Challenges

A new government needs to be formed soon because of the significant challenges ahead for Irish society and the economy, he said. The country needs a government that is able to make decisions for the long term “without too much short-termism”.

Mr Martin warned that Covid-19 is going to have an impact on carbon emissions, which he said can no longer be a Green Party issue only. He said climate change is no longer just an existential crisis and “we have to deal with it”.

Mr Martin said lessons will have been learned through the pandemic and concepts such as remote working are just one of the changes that might come about because of the impact on congestion and energy use.

Speaking about the 7 per cent target for carbon emissions reduction, set out by the Green Party and agreed to by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Mr Martin said: “There is work to be done, we need to go through sector by sector.”

Mr Martin acknowledged it will be a challenge to meet the 7 per cent target, but he said actions speak louder than words and politicians will have to show commitment not just intent.

“I think there is an appetite for this. There is a lot of common ground,” he said.

The Green Party is not anti-rural Ireland, said Mr Martin. “They hate that stereotype,” he said.

The programme for government is what will bind all the political parties together, he said.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil would have to hold a postal ballot about any agreement on entering coalition, in the place of a special ardfheis as specified by the party rules.