Pre-budget tensions, 'lack of trust' and ‘silly’ rows could lead to Cabinet downfall

A severe “lack of trust” within the Cabinet threatens to bring down the minority Government, several Cabinet ministers have said.

As the Government broke yesterday for the summer holidays, relations between Fine Gael and Independent ministers are said to be severely strained.

The Irish Examiner understands that fears within Cabinet are high that the upcoming budget could see the Government’s stability threatened.

But a series of “silly” communications breakdowns have soured the atmosphere between ministers in the past two weeks and several ministers have called for measures to be taken to ensure matters improve.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Independent Alliance Transport Minister Shane Ross sought to remedy the poor relations, but ministers have confirmed that severe tensions persist.

“There is a lack of trust in Cabinet and small things have already blown up into major spats. But when the silly stuff happens on top of the lack of trust, trouble happens. I would fear that if we don’t sort those things out, the budget could see the thing collapse,” said one minister.

“The budget is always the source of tension at the best of times, so the potential for trouble is considerable, so we need to see things improve,” the minister added.

Independent Alliance Transport Minister Shane Ross
Independent Alliance Transport Minister Shane Ross

Mr Ross and his Independent Alliance ministerial colleagues Finian McGrath and John Halligan are known to be “very wary” of their Fine Gael counterparts. It is understood that they are “very frustrated”, with Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar coming in for severe criticism.

However, other ministers have criticised the Independent Alliance ministers for being “unable to make a decision on anything”, which has led to tensions at Cabinet.

It has also emerged that Communications Minister Denis Naughten last week urged Mr Kenny and Mr Ross to try and mend fences after serious infighting between the sides.

Acknowledging the tensions, Mr Naughten said a more pragmatic attitude is needed from ministers to ensure the Government works.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten
Communications Minister Denis Naughten

“There are teething problems, and there has been a lack of communications which have caused problems. At the end of day, we all have to work together. I try and be pragmatic. Get on with the bloody thing as we all have a job to do,” Mr Naughten.

“I am trying to keep lines open even with the opposition, as this Government will live and die by working with people,” Mr Naughten added.

Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone admitted yesterday there are ongoing “disagreements” between Government factions but said: “I think what’s going on is very healthy in relation to having disagreements.

Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone
Children and Youth Affairs Minister Katherine Zappone

“We work through them, and I think we deeply respect each other, but we can disagree in relation to decisions we make as members of cabinet and move on.”

Ms Zappone said the row over a €90,000 a year government deputy press secretary position should be resolved in “the next couple of days” and other issues are being addressed.

However, asked if the minority government situation is placing further pressure on Cabinet relationships as Fianna Fáil has a significant amount of power despite being in opposition, the Children and Youth Affairs Minister admitted the current arrangement is not helping matters.

“A minority government is a new act and it’s always going to be a tightrope that we are walking,” she said.

Asked about tensions at Cabinet, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said that fatal foetal abnormality had been an issue at Cabinet but had been worked out. “That was what it was.”

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed

It was “inevitable” there would be a bedding down period at Cabinet, he added: “We are in a new space and it will take bedding down. Apart from that, I think it is working quite well.”


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