An extension of the confidence and supply deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil needs to be negotiated before October’s budget and in the interests of maintaining stability for the country.
That is according to junior finance minister Michael D’Arcy, who said talks should start over the summer, given Ireland could enter a “rocky” period with a transatlantic trade war and Brexit both looming.
The Wexford TD’s comments reinforce concerns already expressed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar when he said last year that he would not like to see the confidence and supply deal between the two parties “drop dead” the day after the budget.
Mr Varadkar’s spokesman this weekend confirmed that was still the position of the Government.
This week, the Cabinet will formally agree the date for the budget and the publication of the summer economic statement. This will add to pressure on Fianna Fáil to engage in talks on renewing the support deal.
While Mr D’Arcy said he understood the hesitation in the opposition party to tie its TDs to another one or two-year deal, he said this is necessary given the potential instability ahead.
“We are running into a really crucially important period for Ireland in the next six to nine months. The body politic has to be absolutely responsible. That means this existing Government has to ask for an extension. It is pretty clear and we will be asking for an extension,” he said.
“I can understand the position Fianna Fáil finds themselves in. They’ve been responsible, putting a Government in place. Now the question they have to answer when they are asked is are they prepared to continue to be responsible in this crucial period? The latest is October when there has to be some clarity.
Mr D’Arcy said it was his personal opinion that talks must start in the summer.
“I think they should start sooner rather than later,” he said.
“Big issues will be fiscal stability; we are in a less stable period now that we were 12 months ago. The potential for trade wars, Brexit is less clear than it was a year ago. So we are in a period of time where things look rocky.
“The conversation about the extension of the confidence and supply depends on Fianna Fail. We’ve shown to be good partners, we have adhered to what we said we would do. The country’s on a good pathway. Unemployment is down to 5%, we are spending more in departments than we were ever spending before.
“Are there issues? Sure there are, but we are working hard to try and resolve those issues.”
Several senior Fianna Fáil figures say the housing and health crises could be reasons not to renew the support deal. Others accept that essentially pulling the plug on the minority government going into Brexit negotiations this year would be naive and damage Fianna Fáil in the long run.
Mr D’Arcy said: “We are in Government, we have a deal that stands only for the next six months. There’s a legitimate question [to have that extended in the interests of stability of the country].
“But that is a question for Fianna Fáil. And we’ll see whether Fianna Fáil put the country first.”
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