Varadkar rejects claim that Fine Gael ministers are 'swaggering around' to force election

Update 5.55pm

By Daniel McConnell, Political Editor in New York

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has sharply rejected claims by a member of his own Government that Fine Gael ministers are “swaggering around” trying to force an early General Election.

Earlier today, Independent Alliance super junior health minister Finian McGrath, who sits at Cabinet, hit out at his Fine Gael colleagues amid increased talk an election could happen as early as September.

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney speaking in New York yesterday. Photo: Daniel McConnell.

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations in New York, Mr Varadkar slapped down Mr McGrath, saying his ministers are too busy doing the people's business to be misbehaving.

Asked if his ministers are “swaggering” the Taoiseach said: “Not to my knowledge, my ministers are extremely busy doing their jobs which is to keep the economy safe, to negotiate a good outcome to Brexit, to deliver more houses to deal with the challenges faced in healthcare and elsewhere.”

“We have a Confidence and Supply agreement, it should be extended. It makes sense to extend it. We are heading into a period of uncertainty and instability and the best way to resolve that and avoid that is to extend the Confidence and Supply. As I have always said I will in the first instance speak to the leader of Fianna Fail and I will do that in due course,” he added.

In relation to whether there will be a Presidential election this autumn, Mr Varadkar said: “As far as Fine Gael is concerned and as the leader of Fine Gael, we will make a decision when President Higgins makes an announcement as to whether he will be nominating himself for a second as an independent. That is a decision he will make in the coming weeks. We think the respectful thing to do is to wait to do that before making a decision ourselves.”

Meanwhile, former President Mary Robinson, who is also in New York said President Michael D Higgins has been a great servant in the office, but it was solely a matter for himself as to whether he should consider a second term.

Today, Mr Varadkar laid a wreath at the UN in honour of the 88 Irish members of the Defence Forces who have lost their lives while serving on peacekeeping missions.

Earlier: Fine Gael Ministers 'swaggering around the place' amid talks of election, TD says

By Elaine Loughlin

A Cabinet Minister has warned his colleagues in Government not to get "too cocky" as rumours of a September election mount.

Independent Alliance Minister Finian McGrath has suggested that his Fine Gael colleagues are now "swaggering around the place" and said the focus needs to be on delivering on policy and not potting for a General Election.

"You would hear those type of discussions in Government, that's part of the reality of a minority Government," he said this morning when asked if Fine Gael were now planning to go to the polls.

"There are differences in opinion in that.

"I would warn some people not to get too cocky or to be swaggering around the place, that's unacceptable, we need to ensure that people have stable Government at a very very busy time in our history."

"People want us to focus on solutions they don't want us to be jumping up and down about elections."

It comes as a rift has developed between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as to when the confidence and supply deal should be renegotiated.

Calling for "common sense politics" he said: "We need to focus on why people put us in there, it's a minority government and we have to sit down and hammer out the confidence and supply agreement, I accept that argument.

"The next part of that deal is the Budget, and in the meantime, of course, we should talk to Fianna Fáil."

The Independent Alliance TD added: "What I would say to Micheál Martin and the Taoiseach is let's focus on the confidence and supply agreement, let's focus on the next Budget and if it goes on further that would be great news because it gives more stability in relation to housing, in relation to Brexit and health."

He said he has "an open mind" on when the deal should be renegotiated, but said talks should be ongoing.

"I would be encouraging Fianna Fail to sit down and to work very closely with us over the next couple of weeks let's do it over the summer period, it would be a fantastic time to do it.

"I can understand the Taoiseach's frustration at times and I would be very supportive of the Taoiseach because we want to focus on the real issues."

Mr McGrath added: "There is not a jittery nature in the Independent Alliance.

"We have a lot of work to do: we have to deal with the housing issue, the disability issue, we have to deal with the Brexit issue they are all very important issues as well as health.

"We want to get on and do our job, people are not looking for elections, people are looking for solutions to problems."


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