Leo Varadkar has opened the door to a grand coalition with Fianna Fáil after the general election should it be required.
In the Virgin Media TV head-to-head debate tonight, Mr Varadkar again made clear Fine Gael would support a Fianna Fáil minority government under a confidence and supply deal if Micheál Martin’s party wins more seats.
“It’s not my preference but if it’s the only way we can form a stable government in this country I am willing to,” Mr Varadkar said.
The debate, moderated by veteran broadcaster Pat Kenny, turned into a best-of of both parties’ main themes to date — for Mr Varadkar, that what has been done thus far under his Government isn’t enough but with a plea for the electorate to back his party to build on what it has achieved, while for Mr Martin, the aim was to showcase that change is needed with a new Government that is as adept at meeting targets as it is at setting them.
The Taoiseach suggested his party would always “behave like grown-ups” and would go into power with Fianna Fáil in order to maintain stability.
Both party leaders made it clear their willingness to consider all coalition partners stopped short with Sinn Féin.
The level of debate between @FineGael and @fiannafailparty— Mick Caul 😷 (@caulmick) January 22, 2020
Varadkar, despite saying @DaraMurphyEPP would be investigated for his double jobbing is now back-tracking. #VoteGate
It's 2020, women's voices are badly needed in the debate.#VmtvBigDebate #GE2020 #Shamdebate pic.twitter.com/Mb8j8mtaQq
Mr Martin denied that he had been propping up Fine Gael in Government via confidence and supply for three years.
“Nothing inhibited the Government from delivering on its targets in health and housing,” he said, adding that Mr Kenny could not be seriously suggesting that Fianna Fáil “should have collapsed the Government in the middle of the Brexit negotiations”.
The Taoiseach said that “yes we’ve been in for nine years”. “They were in for 14, and we know what happens every time they get in — boom and bust,” he said.
He added that every time his party is in coalition it “ends amicably”, while any Fianna Fáil variant always ends in “acrimony”.