Minister Regina Doherty on potential election: ‘We all need to cop on’

Regina Doherty

A Fine Gael minister has warned that the country may be walked into a “needless” snap general election, the outcome of which would unlikely alter the makeup of the Dáil dramatically.

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty’s warning came as Independent minister Finian McGrath advised against any colleagues in Government or elsewhere getting “too cocky” or “swaggering around the place” when it comes to talk of a general election.

The statements add to the mounting war of words between the Fine Gael-led Government and Fianna Fáil, which is keep them in power under the terms of the confidence and supply agreement.

Both sides are trading blows over when that agreement should be renegotiated and whether either party instead wants to go to the polls.

Ms Doherty yesterday tried to defuse the row. At the same time, however, she accused Fianna Fáil of pushing for an election.

If the country is not careful, they are going to actually talk us into an election that the country doesn’t need, that nobody wants, even though Fianna Fáil says they don’t want it,” she said

“We all need to cop on. There are crises facing the country at the moment, not least of which is Brexit, we have a budget coming up, very important pieces of legislation that need to be passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas.”

The agreement that keeps Fine Gael in power needs to be renegotiated, said Ms Doherty, as there was more reference in the current one to water charges than Brexit.

“If we had an election, the likelihood is the construct of the Dáil probably wouldn’t change that much,” she said. “Fianna Fáil might go up a few, Fine Gael might go up a few, even Sinn Féin might... but it is not going to drastically change, you are not going to have an overall Fianna Fáil majority.

“So what we end up with is back renegotiating some form of coalition or another minority government, when there is nothing wrong with the stable government that we have right now.”

Ms Doherty said the country did not need the interruption of a “fruitless, needless election just to satisfy someone’s whim or ego”.

Fianna Fáil yesterday refused to address the spat. The issue may be discussed at its parliamentary party meeting today.

Mr McGrath, meanwhile, warned colleagues not to be arrogant.

He said: “I would warn some people not to get too cocky or to be swaggering around the place, that’s unacceptable. We need to ensure that people have stable Government at a very very busy time in our history. People want us to focus on solutions they don’t want us to be jumping up and down about elections.

Mr McGrath favours pre-budget talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

“I would be encouraging Fianna Fáil to sit down and to work very closely with us over the next couple of weeks,” he said. “Let’s do it over the summer period, it would be a fantastic time to do it.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was not aware of any of his ministers “swaggering”.

Amid concerns for stability, he did commit to contacting Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin soon.

“As I have always said, I will in the first instance speak to the leader of Fianna Fáil and I will do that in due course,” said Mr Varadkar.

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