Fianna Fáil may limit any deal with Fine Gael to as little as a Dáil statement from Micheál Martin, instead of a written agreement on issues vital to ensuring the next government lasts, in a move that could end Independents’ support.
The opposition party’s public expenditure spokesman, Seán Fleming, made the claim as both parties’ negotiating teams return today to discuss the issue and the equally divisive future of Irish Water.
Both Fine Gael and Independent TDs who will potentially be in the next government have made it clear there is no point in agreeing a minority arrangement unless its longevity is secured.
The issue has led to calls from both groups for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to agree a written deal confirming the minimum length of the next coalition, giving assurances on not blocking financial bills, and guaranteeing that no-confidence motions will not be placed on a regular basis to disrupt the new government’s work.
The desire for a written deal is also because Fine Gael wants to be certain Fianna Fáil will not bring down the government at a time that suits the opposition party, and because Independents want assurances the coalition will last long enough to ensure their policies are implemented.
However, despite some Fianna Fáil TDs supporting a watered-down written deal, the party is against the idea — a position backed by Mr Fleming, who yesterday told RTÉ Radio any deal could involve as little as a Dáil statement from Mr Martin.
“The last time there was such an agreement was the Tallaght Strategy and there was no written agreement; there was a Dáil statement, so it could be a statement read into the Dáil record,” said Mr Fleming.
Mr Martin did not rule out the prospect yesterday, saying the issue was part of negotiations.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil negotiators will begin discussing key policy issues for the first time in their historic talks this evening, with Irish Water among the matters raised.
Despite sources claiming a deal can be done to reduce fees, both sides have refused to budge on the unpopular utility, the first post-election payment cancellation figures for which are due out later this week.
At its parliamentary party meeting last Wednesday, Fine Gael passed a motion saying it will not scrap its Irish Water policy. However, Mr Martin said yesterday that the issue remains “very important for us” and refused to say if his party will back down on plans to scrap the utility and defer charges, in order to allow a government to be formed.
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