FF and FG to hold joint meetings with other party leaders

FF and FG to hold joint meetings with other party leaders

Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, speaking during the commercial break of the Prime Time Leader's Debate earlier this year
Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, speaking during the commercial break of the Prime Time Leader's Debate earlier this year

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will hold joint meetings with the leaders of other parties and the Regional Independent Group next week, it has been confirmed.

For the first time in history, the leaders of the two parties will convene government formation meetings with the other parties “on an equal footing”.

While the smaller parties have so far ruled themselves out of entering government, the Regional Independent group has made it clear that it stands ready to serve.

Independent TD Michael Lowry, a member of the Regional Independent Group, has said he is willing to support a government from the opposition benches if a deal with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil can be reached.

Mr Lowry said he is waiting to see the text of the document that the two parties will present, but he and his colleagues are ready to stand up and be counted in the national interest. It is clear a number of the group are willing to consider serving as ministers in a government.

“This is a dangerous time for the country, it needs a strong and stable government. We are privileged to be elected and we have a duty to help form a government if we can,” Mr Lowry told the Irish Examiner.

Mr Lowry has supported former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny from opposition and said it is critical at this time that anyone who signs up to government is in it for the long haul.

“Once you make a decision to be in, you have to be reliable and dependable and not threatening to run and destabilising the thing all the time.

"What happened in 2016 with others was farcical. You can’t be half a leg in and half a leg out. If you are in, stay in,” he said.

Mr Lowry predicts there will be at least “two difficult years” ahead and said he and his colleagues are ready to talk.

They expect to have a document given to them tomorrow, at which time they will consider it before meetings with Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin.

The members of the group include convener Denis Naughten, Seán Canney, Michael Lowry, Peadar Tóibín of Aontú, Verona Murphy, Noel Grealish, Peter Fitzpatrick, Cathal Berry, and Matt Shanahan.

Wexford TD Verona Murphy has said she will make up her mind once the document is studied.

“I’ll have to see it. You don’t buy a pig in a bag,” she told the Irish Examiner.

“For me, it is all about delivery and the ability to deliver. People voted for change and while we are in straightened times, that change must be delivered.”

A former Fine Gael candidate who was de-selected, Ms Murphy said she harbours no ill-will toward her former party.

“What’s done is done, they de-selected me, I got elected and it’s water under the bridge,” she said.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he wants to discuss formation with the smaller parties and independents.

“Certainly, I think it’s possible for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael working with independents and independent groups to form a majority,” he said.

“We want to try to include other political parties outside of those two parties as well.

"That’s why we have focused on trying to put a framework document together which, I think, will certainly attempt to persuade parties like the Green Party and the Social Democrats and the Labour Party that actually, politics is going to be different.”

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