Varadkar’s confidence and supply talks Brexit claim ‘absurd’ says Martin

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, has dubbed “absurd” claims that holding off the confidence-and-supply talks would impact on Brexit negotiations.

Mr Martin has questioned the seriousness of the Taoiseach’s suggestion for early talks, to hammer out a successor to the current deal, with Fianna Fáil accusing him of “political gamesmanship”.

“There is provision, in the confidence-and-supply, that if there is an issue of burning concern that you ring the leader and that never happened.

“I am not going to be involved in that type of political gamesmanship,” he said.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Martin also put his party’s division over the abortion referendum to bed.

The Fianna Fáil leader, who met each TD individually after May’s referendum, said while “lessons will be learned from it”, there had been “a very good follow-up engagement on the issues”.

“The overriding view was that no-one is going to stand in the way of the will of the people and there is an overarching view that the will of the people will be facilitated, in terms of the passage of the legislation. That was very clear, from the individual conversations,” he said.

Thirty-one Fianna Fáil TDs and senators, who were all opposed to repealing the Eighth, posed for a picture during the referendum campaign. However, Mr Martin said that the other main parties were also split on the issue, but did not get the same media attention.

“There has been a focus on Fianna Fáil, in terms of the Eighth Amendment, but to the absence of any serious analysis of what other parties were doing. The only difference, to me, is that they just didn’t get into a photograph.”

He said that of the 69 Fine Gael Oireachtas members, 10 were ‘no’ and 21 were undeclared.

Mr Martin said: “Some 30% of Fine Gael TDs and senators were undeclared; 14% were ‘no’. That’s 44% of the Fine Gael party that didn’t actually support their leader’s position.”

Mr Martin added that Sinn Féin also “had its own issues”, but they were “maybe better masked”.

“When it came to the committee (that examined the Eighth Amendment), which you all forget, it was the Fianna Fáil personnel on the committee, Billy Kelleher, Lisa Chambers, and Senator Ned O’Sullivan, who came forward with the formula and proposed it at the committee and Sinn Fein couldn’t support it, Sinn Féin had to abstain on the actual proposal that was put to the people.”

Of the renegotiation of the confidence-and-supply agreement with Fine Gael, Mr Martin said the budget will have to be hammered out, before he enters talks on another deal to prop up the Government.

He said Fianna Fáil has brought stability to the table and it was now “absurd to suggest that we are contributing to instability, by not now engaging in the confidence-and-supply renegotiation, because the agreement says three budgets”.

“I don’t believe an election every year will in itself solve the issues and there is a balance to be struck in facilitating a Government, creating space for that Government to negotiate Brexit for example, which is a huge issue for the country, we have given that political stability, we have also given economic stability in terms of the Budget.“No one is getting a blank cheque, no one has a divine right to govern, or an entitlement to govern, Fine Gael lost 26 seats in the last General Election so they need a bit of humility on their side.

“The only people who have created speculation around an election, and instability in the last number of months, has been Fine Gael and Leo Varadkar. I didn’t start this debate.”

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