‘Confidence and supply’ deal may be extended, says Taoiseach

The support pact between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil could be extended for another two years, allowing the current government to run its full five years before the next general election.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that he supports the idea of extending the ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Fine Gael-led government and the main opposition party.

In a separate interview with the Irish Examiner, junior public expenditure minister Patrick O’Donovan also said he “absolutely” backs extending the pact from three to five years.

The signal from senior government figures comes as this week marks the halfway point for the current pact, which allows Fine Gael rule if Fianna Fáil abstains in the main on Dáil matters. The opposition party, in return, gets to put its own stamp on budget and policy matters.

Speaking to Newstalk presenter Chris Donoghue, Mr Varadkar said: “I think [the deal] it could be... Nut I think it is something Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael may want to talk about next year as to whether we want to renew the deal and extend it for a longer period.”

However, Mr O’Donovan, the junior minister at the Department of Public Expenditure, went further and said the pact should be “absolutely” renewed after next year’s budget.

“I don’t see what the reason would be not to extend that deal,” he said. “If you don’t have a government that is doing anything that is worthy of bringing it down, why would you bring it down? I think, at the end of the day, there is no reason that this Government shouldn’t be aspiring to run the full course.

“It is working fine and at the end of the day, the delivery is plain to be seen and the economic figures are plain to be seen, the unemployment rate [change] is plain to be seen and our capital plan is plain to be seen”

Asked though if he trusted Fianna Fáil, the Limerick County TD responded: “I’ve no reason to distrust them. What we went into as a government was an agreement on the basis of a confidence and supply motion. Stuff that is outside that, yes we are going to have differences of opinion. But the material, those financial measures that are in the confidence and supply agreement, are being adhered to.”

Mr Varadkar also told RTÉ that he could lead Fine Gael to winning a third consecutive term in government at the next general election.

Elsewhere, he denied there was a housing bubble, despite price rises of over 12% year-on-year. Mr Varadkar said credit being given to buyers was not excessive.

Meanwhile, the Government this week will consider proposals to finally address a pensions anomaly which has seen people getting up to €1,500 a year less.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty will bring a report to Cabinet to close the loophole so, she says, “we won’t be sitting here next year with another 7,500 people disadvantaged”.

It is estimated though up to 40,000 people, mainly women, are getting smaller pensions, partially due to changes made in 2012 in how levels are calculated. Some of those disadvantaged took time out of their careers in previous years, in many cases to mind their children.

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