Leo Varadkar may meet Micheál Martin next week

The Taoiseach insists his relationship with Micheál Martin is not as bad as people may think, despite the Fianna Fáil leader describing him as “prickly” and “authoritarian”.

Leo Varadkar said he hasn’t spoken directly to Mr Martin since the opposition leader launched a stinging personal attack on him.

But he hopes to meet Mr Martin next week to discuss the confidence and supply deal, insisting he wants the arrangement to continue.

Mr Martin, on Thursday, labelled Mr Varadkar a “prickly” man with “an authoritarian streak” who relentlessly leaks information to journalists.

“He does have a prickly nature and he does have an authoritarian streak, where he doesn’t like criticism: He’s very sensitive to it,” said Mr Martin.

Mr Varadkar, on the same evening, said he would not be responding to such personal attacks, and would not get involved in “tit-for-tat personalised comments”.

Quizzed on the issue after a Fine Gael lunch in the Clayton Hotel Silver Springs in Cork yesterday, the Taoiseach said relations between the two are probably not as bad as people may believe.

“I did request that we meet this week and he agreed to meet but wasn’t able to find time in the diary to meet,” the Taoiseach said.

“Hopefully he’ll be free next week and we’ll be able to discuss relations and the functioning of the confidence and supply agreement.”

When pressed by the Irish Examiner about the state of personal relations between the two men, he said: “Government and opposition, you know!

“I don’t think they are as bad as people may believe or are making out.

“But, ultimately, we are the Government and they are the opposition.

“Relations are probably better than they are in traditional circumstances between government and opposition.

“But I was just looking back, and we’re coming to the end of a Dáil term now, and this Government, this Fine Gael-Independent Government, has been in place now for two years.

“We’ve had 70 pieces of legislation through, which is quite a lot, notwithstanding the fact that we are a minority government.

“We have repealed the eighth amendment, which we committed to do, giving that choice to the Irish people, the economy is in a very good position, unemployment is at its lowest in 10 years, even things where we have huge difficulties like health and housing, we are starting to see rents stabilise and construction of new homes is increasing — it’s 45% more year on year.

“So I think we are seeing progress in more areas than we’re falling back on.

 

“I would like to see this Government continue and I’ll have a discussion with the leader of Fianna Fáil as soon as he’s available to meet about that and we’ll take it from there.”

 

Later, the Taoiseach visited farms in Macroom and Banteer to see first-hand the challenges faced by farmers during the drought, but said it was probably too early to discuss possible fodder supports.

“The hosepipe ban now applies nationally and we are really asking people to conserve water,” he said.

“There aren’t any plans at the moment for any particular response in relation to fodder, but I know it is an issue that is emerging.

“It is too early to get into that kind of conversation — but we absolutely acknowledge the fact that there is a water shortage, the land is very dry and the grass is not growing as fast as it ought to be this time of year.

“If we don’t have some rain in the next couple of weeks, we will get into difficulty and the Government won’t be found wanting if we need to respond to that.”



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