Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said no special constituency deals were done with independents to secure their support for the Government in Wednesday night’s vote on the ending of the eviction ban.
However, he said there was “ongoing engagement with the independents about constituency issues but no formal agreements in that sense”.
Mr Varadkar was speaking on his way into a two-day summit of European leaders in Brussels. The leaders are meeting UN secretary general Antonio Guterres on Thursday morning and will be addressed later by Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelenskiy.
The Taoiseach said the Government agreed with the independents’ amendments to the Sinn Féin motion because they “included a number of good suggestions”. These included changes to the operation of the Fair Deal nursing home scheme, the Croí Cónaithe vacancy and dereliction scheme, the rent a room scheme and measures to support landlords and renters.
Asked if there were any special constituency deals, he said “certainly not in relation to the vote yesterday”. However, he said the support of the independents had helped to give the Government an “even more secure majority” and there were ongoing contacts with them.
Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has been suspended from the party for 15 months for voting with Opposition on the motion, the sanction for which has drawn criticism from councillors.
He said that the motion of no confidence in the Government next week “will be defeated, it will be defeated by a significant margin, it is largely political theatre.”
Mr Varadkar said that he had not held any discussions with the independents about the motion but said that the Government would speak to “like-minded independents who don’t want an election next week or in three weeks’ time”.
“They’re sensible, reasonable independents and we will talk to them about issues they might have.”
Mr Varadkar welcomed the result of the vote in Westminster on Wednesday night, declaring that “more than 400 MPs out of 650 voting for the Windsor Framework”.
“So that’s very positive,” he said, “and allows us now to go ahead and implement it in good faith.”
The Taoiseach said he was “disappointed to hear that the DUP isn’t willing to go back into the Executive and the Assembly”.
“I think they should,” he added.
Despite the DUP’s decision, he said “I don’t think all is lost yet” and that it is “premature to be talking about anything like direct rule, but it is the consistent position of the Irish government that direct rule is not provided for in the Good Friday Agreement, and we couldn’t support going back to that”.
Asked if DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson was saying “never” or “not for now”, Mr Varadkar said: “I think nothing would be served by trying to interpret what the leader of the DUP is saying and it’s important that he should speak for himself and that I shouldn’t try to put words in his mouth.”