By Juno McEnroe and Daniel McConnell
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have agreed to develop a programme for government for a “stable” coalition that will help the country recover after the Covid-19 crisis.
Party sources now expect talks between the two to proceed quickly, possibly in time for a coalition programme to be presented to members before the end of April.
The moves came after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it is possible to form a government within “the next couple of weeks”.
His admission on agreeing a deal came as the two parties held another day of talks and as the clock winds down on the caretaker government’s ability to govern.
The two parties now also face the dilemma of trying to put together a deal after the Greens categorically backed out of negotiations.
Speaking in Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar said: “I do think it is possible to form a government in the next couple of weeks. But to form a government, and I think we need a government that’s going to last until 2024, 2025. it’s going to need a working majority. And that means it’s going to require more than Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Between the two parties, we only have 72 seats.
In matching statements last night, the parties said they had agreed the “need to form a strong, stable government that will help Ireland recover post Covid-19.”
“They are working to develop a programme for government that provides stability and majority support in the Dáil,” they said.
Time is running out for the caretaker Fine Gael-led coalition with confirmation that it may not be able to pass emergency laws shortly.
Mr Varadkar said there was real “concern” the new Seanad, to be formed next week, would not be reconstituted properly without the taoiseach’s appointments.
“For that reason, it could be open to a constitutional challenge, and be deemed invalid by the Supreme Court.
He also ruled out the need for an immediate emergency budget, saying that could be months away.
But the Greens have pulled out of talks, reiterating that a unity government is required.
Neasa Hourigan, the party’s Dáil whip, said: “We will not be engaging in anything other than discussions for unity or national government.