Several of Micheál Martin’s chief lieutenants in Fianna Fáil have said that extending the confidence and supply deal is “unimaginable” at present, the Irish Examiner can reveal.
In a warning to the Government, the future of the deal has been thrown into doubt as Fianna Fáil TDs are furious over a lack of progress on issues like health, housing and education.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, the TDs have ruled out an extension of the deal to facilitate the Fine Gael-led minority government from opposition, unless it can “get to grips” with the various crises.
“Unless the Government begins a meaningful process about addressing the housing and health crises, it would be unimaginable in my view for Fianna Fáil to continue with confidence and supply,” said Clare TD and communications spokesman Timmy Dooley.
In a major escalation in hostilities, the TDs have also vented their anger at what they saw as a “blatant attempt” by Leo Varadkar and his ministers to bounce Fianna Fáil into extending the deal beyond its conclusion after October’s budget.
“What are you seeing is a sense of frustration at the coordinated attempt by Varadkar and Coveney that a renegotiation of confidence and supply is a fait accompli,” said one Fianna Fáil TD.
“Confidence and supply is not a blank cheque and Fine Gael need to realise that,” said Dara Calleary, the party’s public expenditure spokesman.
“There should be no surprise, we want delivery on housing, on proper pay for new entrants, and those working in voluntary hospitals. We have honoured confidence and supply from our side, but what we are making clear is that we need to see delivery. No one wants to walk this off a cliff but it is not a free pass either. It is time to show delivery.”
Other TDs have said it is clearMr Varadkar’s Government is no longer prepared to listen to their suggestions, so they are now standing as a real alternative.
Offaly TD and housing spokesman Barry Cowen said his party will no longer be offering recommendations to government, but rather offering alternatives for people to consider ahead of a general election.
“Unfortunately we haven’t seen success and, as I said, it’s our duty to convince the public in the meantime that what we put forward will not necessarily be seen as recommendations to government anymore but will be seen as alternatives that we could do this in a better fashion than they have,” said Mr Cowan.
“We’ll be doing so from here on in for the public to judge us by our policies, our commitment on the way in which we can do things differently. We will seek to be the lead party in the next government.”
Sources close to Mr Martin sought to downplay the expressions of anger from within his front bench, saying the team has not yet met this year to discuss matters.
However, one source did acknowledge that the frustration within the front bench is high.
“Fine Gael think they can bounce us into extending the deal, but we are not having that,” the party figure said. “We are committed to working it from our side but we need to see a lot more action from them.”
In response, a spokeswoman for Mr Varadkar said the agreement allows for the passage of three budgets, meaning it is due to run until October. Therefore, the Taoiseach is focusing on upcoming priorities including the publication of the €100bn capital plan and Brexit.
Transport Minister Shane Ross said Fianna Fáil speaks with about four different voices on many issues.
“So I wouldn’t put too much credence on what he says is going to happen in September, October, November, December,” he said.
“I think it would be very foolish of Fianna Fáil to attempt to bring the Government down in a situation where we don’t need a general election and where the country is beginning to enjoy the comforts of prosperity.”
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