Irish Times view on renewing ‘confidence and supply’ deal: extension makes sense

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are suspicious of each other but certainty would be beneficial for both as well as being in the national interest

The offer by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) of an extension to the confidence-and-supply arrangement has put Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (right) on the spot, and some leading members of his party are angry at the fact that it became public so quickly. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

The offer by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) of an extension to the confidence-and-supply arrangement has put Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (right) on the spot, and some leading members of his party are angry at the fact that it became public so quickly. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

The offer by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at their face to face meeting in Killarney last week of a two year extension of the confidence-and-supply arrangement makes a lot of sense. A formal agreement by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to extend the deal and to set an election date in June 2020 would provide political and economic stability at a critical time.

Although the offer by Varadkar represents a clear attempt by him to gain some political advantage, that should not invalidate its merits. Such an agreement would put an end to election speculation and the temptation facing the two big parties to play politics with every issue that will arise when the current arrangement ends in the autumn.

The two parties are naturally suspicious of each other but an extension of the deal, negotiated in good faith, would be beneficial for both

The offer has put Martin on the spot and some leading members of his party are angry at the fact that it became public so quickly. The Fianna Fáil position is that the party will only consider a review of the current arrangement when it comes to an end after the passage of the next budget through the Dáil.

Fine Gael Ministers are not content to leave it at that as it would leave the minority Government at the mercy of the Dáil and liable to be pulled down on foot of the first major controversy that arises after the budget.

The two parties are naturally suspicious of each other but an extension of the deal, negotiated in good faith, would be beneficial for both as well as being in the national interest. The uncertainty about what will happen when the deal runs out has already fuelled election speculation and that will inevitably continue if there is no formal agreement to continue it for another set period.

That uncertainty could paralyse the Government but it could also make life very difficult for Fianna Fáil as it looks over its shoulder at Sinn Féin, the smaller parties and the Independents who will try to politically embarrass it at every opportunity. With Brexit coming to a crunch over the next six months or so, political certainty would be a huge benefit.

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