Leo Varadkar has eyes on a second term as Taoiseach

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will ask Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to potentially extend the confidence and supply deal by “a year or more” before the upcoming budget on October 7 in a bid to stave off snap election threats and the rise of Sinn Féin.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a reception after the John A Costello commemoration. Picture: Peter Cavanagh Photography

Sources close to Mr Varadkar confirmed the Taoiseach is strongly in favour of the extension just hours after a leaked internal Fine Gael report revealed his party is already working on slogans in case of an imminent snap election vote.

Speaking as Mr Martin dismissed “hype” over a snap election but did not rule out extending the confidence and supply deal “at the end of the year” when asked, sources close to Mr Varadkar said an extension is the Taoiseach’s first choice option.

With speculation continuing over whether a snap election could be called and with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald insisting her party is a genuine coalition option, it was stressed Mr Varadkar wants to extend the current deal by at least a year.

“The Taoiseach would like to extend it [the confidence and supply deal] by a year, or more. He’s also said that discussions should open before the budget at the appropriate time,” sources close to Mr Varadkar said.

The mooted move came as Mr Martin did not rule out extending the confidence and supply deal when asked about speculation over the future of the agreement.

Asked about the issue on RTE Radio’s This Week programme, Mr Martin said he will discuss whether the confidence and supply deal should be extended “at the end of the year”.

In the same interview Mr Martin separately lashed out at the “phoney talk” and “hype” from Fine Gael and Sinn Féin about causing a snap election.

However, while stressing he is focussed on completing the confidence and supply deal, Mr Martin pointedly refused to rule out extending the deal amid speculation Mr Varadkar wants to add another year to the arrangement, instead saying the issue will only begin to be discussed after the deal runs out “at the end of the year”.

While extending the confidence and supply deal is unlikely to be welcomed by large sections of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s membership, it may be seen as the best way to avoid or delay potential coalition talks with Sinn Féin after the next election.

Similarly, such a move would remove the potential damage a snap election could cause to ensuring the post-referendum 12-week abortion access legislation is passed, and to the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

However, while both parties’ leaders appear open to extending the deal, a significant element of distrust remains, an issue which reignited yesterday when a Sunday newspaper published a leaked Fine Gael report outlining a number of potential election slogans for the party, including “Let Leo Lead”, “Securing Our Future” and “Forward With Leo’s Team”.

Mr Varadkar declined to speak to the media about the controversy in south Dublin yesterday at the 70th anniversary of former Fine Gael leader John A Costello’s election as taoiseach.

However, in a prepared speech, Mr Varadkar repeatedly referenced the two-term record of Mr Costello, who was led the first coalition government of Ireland — then known as an “inter-party government” — in 1949.

Meanwhile, amid growing Fianna Fáil concern over the rise of Sinn Féin, Mr Martin yesterday heavily criticised Mary Lou McDonald over her ard fheis speech claims her party must be seen as a potential coalition partner in the next election.

“There was an extraordinarily arrogant assumption that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael owed Sinn Féin power,” he told RTE Radio’s This Week programme.


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