FF, FG to swap policy papers to kickstart talks

FF, FG to swap policy papers to kickstart talks

Additional reporting by Aoife Moore

Detailed policy papers are to be exchanged this week between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin in a bid to kickstart Government formation talks.

The papers, to centre on the economy, health, and housing, will be exchanged to explore the development of a programme for government.

Discussions between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are to take place tomorrow, but neither side could give any indication as to how soon a new government could be formed.

Speaking at Leinster House yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin confirmed that talks between the two parties will occur tomorrow, and it is expected the two parties will exchange papers aimed at forming a majority government.

“There will be meetings this week in relation to that. And there will be an exchange of papers between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in relation to that this week, that’s towards the middle of the week,” he said.

Mr Martin refused to state if he would be happy to allow key Fine Gael ministers such as Simon Harris and Simon Coveney remain in their positions to deal with the crisis, as suggested by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

“We will be entering those discussions this week. And as far as we’re concerned ... I’ve already had discussions with the Taoiseach some weeks back with clear understandings in terms of how that would develop,” he said.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said she was not yet giving up hope of being involved in the next government, even though both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have ruled out working with her.

She said the people voted for change, and things have radically changed since then.

“I think we need a government people mandated, a government of change,” she said.

“Things have changed radically since then. But no, I think the process for government formation needs to continue.

“I tell you another thing: The Dáil needs to meet — there needs to be parliamentary oversight.”

When asked if her party were still holding talks, she replied: “Yes, absolutely.”

Mr Varadkar, speaking in Dublin, refused to be drawn on his position, other than to say that talks are continuing.

FF, FG to swap policy papers to kickstart talks

“In terms of government formation, you know talks are ongoing between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and we remain open to talk to parties, like the Green Party, Labour, Social Democrats, should they wish to speak to us,” he said.

Six weeks on from the election, the advent of the Covid-19 crisis has slowed formation talks to a halt.

There is mounting pressure on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to come together with either the Green Party or the so-called Regional Group of Independent TDs who have said they are willing to serve or support a government.

Following the Greens’ call for a national unity government to be formed — a move rejected out of hand by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael — there has been some cooling in the desire to work with Eamon Ryan and his now expanded party of 12 TDs.

The group of independents, which includes Sean Canney, Denis Naughten, Noel Grealish, and Michael Lowry, has opened strong working channels with both Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin, and there is a sense they would be more solid in government than the Greens.

The Taoiseach also said that he will recall the existing Seanad to pass new legislation in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic before the weekend.

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