Fine Gael is willing to compromise on Irish Water and water charges to secure an agreement for government with Fianna Fáil.
The party, which has so far described Irish Water as a red-line issue, is believed to be willing to give way to Fianna Fáil on key aspects of how water charges are levied to see a Fine Gael minority government formed. Talks between the parties will extend to a third day today after exploring how a minority government would work yesterday.
“Negotiation teams of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had a further two meetings today and have agreed to meet again tomorrow,” identical statements from both parties said.
Ahead of tomorrow’s vote in the Dáil for taoiseach, discussions are set to turn to policy matters, and the main sticking points are matters such as Irish Water, the universal social charge, health, and the pending industrial unrest.
However, the Irish Examiner has established from sources close to the talks that movement on water charges and Irish Water are seen as possible from a Fine Gael point of view.
“Fine Gael have a clear position as do Fianna Fáil,” a source said. “There is a deal to be done on water charges. Is there ground upon which a deal could be done? Yes. My feeling is if people want to do a deal then it can be done.”
It is understood that Fine Gael is willing to go along with Fianna Fáil proposals to slim down the controlling utility in charge of water provision. It is also expected that a rebranding of the utility would also be ushered in.
However, the party also seems willing to go along with the idea of deferring water charges for a period of time, possibly for three years.
The Fine Gael hierarchy is increasingly confident that temporary Taoiseach Enda Kenny could win the vote in the Dáil tomorrow, facilitated by a Fianna Fáil abstention.
However, it was confirmed last night that should an agreement not be reached in time, then the vote for taoiseach could be postponed until next week.
The party, which has the most number of TDs of any party in the Dáil, feels that with a deal with Fianna Fáil, it would need a minimum of 57 seats to form a workable minority government.
Meanwhile, Independent Alliance members Finian McGrath, Shane Ross, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, and Sean Canney met Fine Gael negotiator Simon Coveney and junior minister Simon Harris for 90 minutes in Government Buildings last night.
The Independents sought the meeting to receive an update on Fine Gael’s talks with Fianna Fáil, and to outline its response to Fine Gael’s lengthy policy document sent to the group last week.
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