Talks on extending the parliamentary confidence and supply deal should focus on the future, not the past, the Taoiseach has said.
Leo Varadkar suggested the negotiations should concentrate on what can be achieved in the coming two years, rather than being preoccupied with a review of the first three years of Fine Gael’s historic pact with Fianna Fail.
Mr Varadkar was commenting on the first day of exchanges between the two parties’ negotiating teams.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has insisted a comprehensive review of the pact must be undertaken before he will consider signing up to an extension.
He has cited concerns over how the Government has handled issues such as health and housing since the confidence and supply accord was signed in 2016.
The Taoiseach wants Fianna Fail to agree to support his minority for a further two years – until the summer of 2020 – insisting political stability is vital as the country deals with the consequences of Brexit.
If an agreement fails to materialise after the deal expired following this month’s budget, Ireland will face a winter general election only months away from the UK’s departure from the EU.
On Thursday morning, Mr Varadkar reiterated his desire for a timely conclusion to the negotiations.
“The priority from our point of view and our objective is to make sure the country has a stable government and functioning government that can provide good government to citizens over the next couple of years,” he said.
“As I said in the letter I wrote to Micheal 53 days ago now, a government can’t really function if it doesn’t know if it’s going to be around next week or next month – it makes it very hard to do the people’s business in those circumstances.
“We face a lot of challenges at home and abroad but I have suggested that we agreed an extension until the summer of 2020 and we sit down and agree what the government can deliver between now and then.
“Fianna Fail’s focus seems to be on a review on the past, but if you look at the document that we agreed over two years ago it doesn’t even refer to things like Brexit.
“So much has changed since then and I am happy to be part of the review, but I think we need to get on to talking about the future.”
Asked about the timetable for talks, the Fine Gael leader added: “I think with goodwill on both sides and engagement on both sides this could be done in a matter of weeks.
“The Dail is in recess next week and the negotiating teams will be around.
“I don’t see any cause for a prolonged renegotiation, but that’s not entirely in my hands, obviously.”
- Press Association