Green Party wins concessions as Government talks set to conclude

Green Party wins concessions as Government talks set to conclude

Additional reporting by Paul Hosford

The Green Party has emerged the big winner in the Programme for Government talks as leaders will finalise the details of the deal today.

Discussions on taxation and whether the pension age will increase to 67 were the last-minute obstacles to a deal on forming a new government.

Party leaders Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan met for over six and a half hours in Government Buildings to finalise the deal, but talks ended without resolution last night.

However, none of the outstanding issues were seen as insurmountable according to sources involved in the talks.

Speaking to reporters late last night, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says that there has been "a lot of great work" done, but that agreement has not yet been reached. He said that progress had been made on a number of issues, but said that there would be an update on Monday.

"There is a lot of work going on. A few matters are in the process of being worked on,” he said.

Green Party wins concessions as Government talks set to conclude
Tanaiste Simon Coveney TD, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD & Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe TD  during Government talks at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Agreement is likely today which would pave the way for Mr Martin to become Taoiseach, pending party ratification.

After a marathon 19-hour session, the parties concluded talks at 4am Sunday morning having agreed the text on a 100-page Programme for Government document with the issues on taxation and the pension age “kicked up” to the leaders to decide upon.

Another issue to be settled by the leaders is a mooted ban on imports from occupied territories.

On the taxation, Fine Gael was said to be holding out for a commitment that if economic conditions permit them, that tax cuts be considered while sources said there was agreement to review the increase in pension age to 67 but the mechanism of how and when that is achieved was not resolved.

Fianna Fáil were seeking the annulment of existing legislation which allows for the pension age to increase from January and Fine Gael has called for full pension payments to kick in from 66 where no other income exists, sources say.

Green Party wins concessions as Government talks set to conclude
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin TD  during Government talks at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Irish Examiner understands that in addition to the main text, the leaders negotiated the text of a document as to how the three-way government will operate, how disagreements will be tackled and crises avoided.

The Programme for Government commits to:

  • A multi-billion Euro stimulus package to help the economy exit from the “severe recession” caused the coronavirus pandemic;
  • Securing a pathway to delivering the 7% reduction in carbon emissions.
  • Increasing the carbon tax to €100 a tonne by 2030 as demanded by the Greens.
  • Halting the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure, including the planned liquefied natural gas -LNG- plant earmarked for the Shannon estuary area. There will also be a ban on the future exploration of gas in the seas surrounding Ireland.
  • Ensuring all future capital investment split on a 2:1 basis in favour of public transport over roads;
  • It is understood that the parties have agreed to an annual spend of €360 million on walking and cycling infrastructure;
  • Ending direct provision within the lifetime of the next government;
  • Building 50,000 social homes over the next five years, with an emphasis on new homes;
  • The holding of 3 referendum without reference to committee on the right to housing, the position of women in the home and extending the vote in a presidential election to all Irish citizens. Two other referenda on environmental protection rights and the right to water will be first examined by a committee.

Parties seek members' approval


Juno McEnroe, Political Correspondent 

Green Party wins concessions as Government talks set to conclude
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Government talks at Government Buildings, Dublin. (Niall Carson/PA Wire)
It took weeks to negotiate, now the hard sell.

And while much of the policy has been decided by party leaders and advisors in Leinster House, attention will now move out of Dublin, to constituencies and into frontrooms, kitchens and makeshift offices across the country ahead of almost 20,000 people voting for or against an historic three-way agreement.

So what are the thresholds and levels of approval needed for the programme for government to be ratified and how will each party conduct their own votes and consultation with memberships?

Fine Gael 

It is largely accepted that it will be easier for leader Leo Varadkar to get approval for the agreement, Fine Gael's so-called electoral college system assigns weighted voting to groups. TDs, Senators and MEPs account for 50% of the tally, councillors make up 15% and the executive council (which generally stands behind the leadership), makes up another 10% of the total. Constituencies are represented with 10 delegates from each, making up another 25% of the vote.

This means that if Varadkar gets a seal of approval from most of the parliamentary party, the council and just a small number of councillors, he will get the coalition pact over the line. All in all, there are 700 votes across the four electoral colleges.

Fianna Fail 

For Fianna Fail, the numbers are far greater and the risk of failure bigger.

Leader Micheal Martin changed the rules so each member gets one vote. Leinster House occupants carry as much weight on the ballots.

With an estimated 15,000 members, a convention has now been ruled out because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, there will also be a postal ballot and curiously, each constituency's vote will be recorded and added up, putting pressure on TDs to persuade their county members to buy into the deal. Any failure to do so may be noted by Martin.

Fianna Fail HQ also maintains two weeks are needed for its postal ballot, from the day the deal is presented to members in Leinster House up until the thousands of votes are sorted.

Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael need over 50% to approve the deal.

Green Party 

Undoubtedly, the single biggest pressure point for the coalition deal is whether Green members buy into it. Added to that is the added complication of a looming leadership contest.

There are 2,700 party members in the South, another 500 in the North and the party has grown to this level from just 700 in 2017. Many new members are firmer, more militant, around green issues, such as carbon emissions, farming and public transport.

The deal will need to be discussed at an online giant convention, after which virtual attendees will be allocated a vote. Those who can't attend can apply in advance to activate their vote.

A colossal two-thirds of members must approve the deal.

Leader Eamon Ryan confirmed that all three parties will announce results of their individual votes simultaneously, thereby removing any influence on others.

Results could potentially be released on what is being coined Ireland's Super Tuesday on June 23, thereby giving parties a week to pass crucial laws by the end of the month.

Leaders may have backed the coalition deal, but it has many hurdles to clear yet.

It took weeks to negotiate, now the hard sell.

More on this topic

Gary Murphy: A loveless three-party coalition could workGary Murphy: A loveless three-party coalition could work

Eamon Ryan's party leadership under scrutiny after repeating racial slurEamon Ryan's party leadership under scrutiny after repeating racial slur

Varadkar: General election not in Ireland’s interestVaradkar: General election not in Ireland’s interest

Micheál Martin denies signing 'cowardice-and-surrender' deal with Fine GaelMicheál Martin denies signing 'cowardice-and-surrender' deal with Fine Gael

More in this Section

Man arrested in connection with Frankie Dunne murder released without chargeMan arrested in connection with Frankie Dunne murder released without charge

Government-chartered flights during Covid-19 crisis cost almost €900,000Government-chartered flights during Covid-19 crisis cost almost €900,000

Public health officials to confirm if all pubs can reopen next weekPublic health officials to confirm if all pubs can reopen next week

Simon Coveney defends Taoiseach's travel to Brussels for 'essential work'Simon Coveney defends Taoiseach's travel to Brussels for 'essential work'


Lifestyle

Arsenal v Liverpool is the big game in the Premier League, while Cate Blanchett continues in her role as Mrs AmericaWednesday's TV highlights: Mrs America and live soccer action

More From The Irish Examiner