Uncertainty over confidence and supply extension fuels FF rancour

Senior Fianna Fáil figures believe Varadkar is keeping option of autumn election open

Fine Gael Ministers pressed Fianna Fáil yesterday for an extension to the confidence-and-supply agreement, though the Government confirmed no approach had been made to Fianna Fáil yet.

Senior Government figures said they expected the Taoiseach to approach the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, about an extension of the deal in the coming weeks, and Mr Varadkar confirmed in New York that he would do so “in due course”.

But senior Fianna Fáil figures expressed exasperation that Fine Gael Ministers were agitating for talks about the confidence-and-supply deal while Mr Varadkar had yet to speak to Mr Martin about it.

Privately, some senior Government figures believe Mr Varadkar is seeking to give himself the option of an autumn election, a view shared at senior levels in Fianna Fáil.

Criticised Fianna Fáil

Minister for Health Simon Harris yesterday appealed for the agreement between the two parties to be extended, but he also sharply criticised Fianna Fáil and Mr Martin in particular.

“I think most people in this country are getting a bit fed up at this stage with the antics of the Fianna Fáil party,” Mr Harris said.

“Every time he leaves the jurisdiction you have the personalised, partisan attacks directed at the Taoiseach.

“Clearly there are huge challenges facing this country, and we need to know that we are going to have a government that would be in place, not one that can be just collapsed whenever Micheál Martin takes a fancy to it,” Mr Harris said.

“The sensible thing to do now is for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to discuss the future of that agreement and try and resolve this issue once and for all because these silly kind of antics are frustrating the Irish people,” he said.

Any uncertainty

In response, a senior Fianna Fáil source asked how the party could be responsible for any uncertainty when it had not even been asked to extend the confidence-and-supply agreement.

A spokesman for Micheál Martin said the agreement “states clearly that a review will take place at the end of 2018”.

“The Government seems to be busy causing distractions from very real issues facing the country and its citizens – Brexit, housing, health issues as well as increased challenges with cost of living costs and now a drought.

“There is no Assembly in the North for the last 19 months and it’s hardly mentioned.

“These are the issues that should be debated and addressed in the short and medium term. This would serve the people in the best way possible, not surmising and speculating on an election in July, August, September, October that the people or the country does not need or want. There is enough of this going on in Westminster.”

Speaking in New York, the Taoiseach rejected a charge from Minister of State Finian McGrath (Independent) that Fine Gael Ministers were “swaggering around the place”.

He refused to be drawn on the speculation around an election, saying he has been “extremely busy” and his focus was “very much on the business of government”.