Simon Harris calls for early talks on confidence-and-supply deal

Tánaiste says Fine Gael not keen for there to be an election as the public do not want one

Simon Harris attends the launch of the State’s new LGBTI+  national youth strategy, in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwellphotography.ie

Simon Harris attends the launch of the State’s new LGBTI+ national youth strategy, in Dublin. Photograph: Maxwellphotography.ie

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has called for the confidence-and-supply deal, through which Fianna Fáil props up the Fine Gael-led minority Government, to be renegotiated ahead of the budget.

Mr Harris also said the recent hot weather “had got to the leader of the Fianna Fáil party” and urged Micheál Martin to “calm down”.

This was a reference to Mr Martin’s comments this week criticising Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for discussing extending the three-year deal in public without having approached Fianna Fáil about the matter.

The confidence-and-supply deal, agreed following the general election in February 2016, was for Fianna Fáil to support the Government for three budgets.

Fianna Fáil has said the arrangement should be reviewed after October’s budget, as is stated in the deal itself.

However, Fine Gael has stated that the matter should be addressed prior to the budget and the crucial final stages of the Brexit negotiations.

Speaking at an event in Dublin on Friday to launch the new LGBTI+ national youth strategy, Mr Harris said the confidence-and-supply deal would come to an end this year and it would be timely to have a conversation on what happens next.

‘Makes sense’

When asked when that discussion should take place, the Minister responded: “It is my view, and this is very much my view, that it makes sense that the conversation would start in advance of the budget.

“I will be guided by the view of the Taoiseach, who is charged with making those decisions from our party’s perspective,” he said. “It is important that those of us negotiating budgets for our departments have certainty.”

The comments are the first public remarks from a Fine Gael Minister on the need for early negotiations.

Privately, many believe Mr Varadkar is eager for there to be an autumn election. However, Tánaiste Simon Coveney on Friday insisted that Fine Gael did not want an election as they believe the public does not want to go to the polls.

“In terms of elections, I don’t believe the Irish people want an election and Fine Gael isn’t looking for an election. But when you are in a minority government situation, you have to be ready for that: if the opposition want to try and trigger one,” he said at the launch of a small business scheme at Cork City Hall.

“Our focus is on providing the best governance we can given the environment and the challenges we face but that doesn’t mean the party won’t be ready should it be triggered unexpectedly.”

Fraught

Meanwhile, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she expected fraught exchanges as the deal between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael reached a conclusion.

However, the Independent member of the Government said it was her belief that a third budget would be passed under the confidence-and-supply deal and that a “break up” would not occur before then.

The Independent Alliance, which is part of the minority Government, said it supported Mr Martin’s comments on not holding a general election in the immediate future.

The group, which has two Cabinet Ministers and two Ministers of State, said the talk of an autumn election was unhelpful when there was much work to be done in Government.

A spokeswoman for the group added: “The last thing that the people want to see is another period of political instability and the Independent Alliance supports the comments of Mr Martin who is seeking to reach agreement on a third budget and possibly extend the confidence and supply agreement beyond that.”