Varadkar apologises for ‘leaky Ministers’, says talks still open to Soc Dems and Labour

FF leader Micheál Martin says climate and farming issues not mutually exclusive

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking on the steps of Government Buildings on May 1st. Photograph: Photocall Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking on the steps of Government Buildings on May 1st. Photograph: Photocall Ireland

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said government formation talks are “still open” to the Social Democrats and Labour Party.

“What’s happened is that talks have begun at long last between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens and it is still open to Labour and the Social Democrats to join those talks, and we’re still keeping in touch with Independents who might be willing to support a new government,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to bring those talks to conclusion.”

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show, Mr Varadkar said that any agreement with Fianna Fáil would be on the basis of an equal partnership.

“We have agreed with Fianna Fáil that any government we take part in will be an equal partnership.

“The key test for me and people in our party is can we come up with a programme for government that’s in the interests of the country that’s realistic and helps get us through this help crisis – get people back to work, businesses open again, and the economy humming again.

“This is an unprecedented situation politically as well as in terms of the history of our country.

“There’s always been a deal at the end, and that deal has always been ratified by the parties involved in the Dáil – but things that we believed to always be true up until the last few weeks have turned out to be different.

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“If you go back over the history of our democracy, once talks start – at least up until now – there has always been a deal at the end. Fine Gael has entered these talks in good faith.”

When asked about media reports quoting Cabinet sources that the chances of government formation were 50/50, Mr Varadkar said: “Once again I have to apologise for some of my leaky Ministers.

“I’ll have to ensure I have less leaky Ministers if I get to appoint some again,” he said.

The Green Party met Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on Thursday evening for the first round of talks aimed at devising a programme for government.

The parties are understood to have agreed the parameters of how the talks will proceed. The process is now expected to last until the end of the month before being put before the membership of each party for an expected postal ballot.

Running commentary

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, meanwhile, has said he “doesn’t buy the argument” that tackling climate change and helping rural Ireland are mutually exclusive.

A carbon emissions reduction of seven per cent is a “red-line” for the Green party, but some Fianna Fáil TDs have raised concerns about the impact of that on farming and rural communities.

Mr Martin told Newstalk Breakfast that he believed a new government could focus on reducing emissions without damaging rural Ireland in the process.

“I don’t buy the argument that climate change and rural Ireland are somehow mutually exclusive – I take an opposite view, actually. I think the conventional approaches to rural Ireland haven’t quite worked up until now.

“The deep retrofitting programme could create jobs, for example, and other related sectors – in terms of wind energy and so, particularly offshore wind – is an area that we should develop and exploit more as a country. We haven’t been doing it sufficiently to date, which can create its own economic dividends.”

While other party leaders had expressed the hope that a new government could be in place by June, Mr Martin said he did not know if that could be done, but it was what Fianna Fáil were aiming for.

“All parties have said they would like to see a government by June. There will be a ratification process for every party.

“I think people will get impatient if it drags on too long.”

Mr Martin would not be drawn on whether he or Mr Varadkar would be first in line to be taoiseach in any Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition. The two leaders have discussed the issue, he said, but both had agreed that a programme for government is the main priority.

The various parties had agreed to not have a “running commentary” while talks are ongoing.