Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael talks will focus on policy, not positions

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is set to seek common ground with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on party policies when both men meet next week amid efforts to form a government.

Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael talks will focus on policy, not positions

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is set to seek common ground with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on party policies when both men meet next week amid efforts to form a government.

The face-to-face talks, expected to take place on Tuesday, will be policy-led and not about positions, said Fianna Fáil sources.

While Mr Varadkar told Mr Martin on Thursday night that he could not enter formal negotiations without the mandate of the Fine Gael party, the exploratory talks are expected to go through common policies between the two groups, including in housing, health and climate change.

Mr Martin is expected to reiterate what he told the Dáil during a debate on Thursday regarding government formation, in that Fianna Fáil has been given a mandate by voters to form a coalition.

However, Mr Varadkar is expected to seek parity for Fine Gael in any possible government talks.

After his own party met earlier this week, Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael was preparing for a spell in opposition but that it was willing to help form a government if all other options are exhausted.

Speaking in Brussels while attending an EU summit, Mr Varadkar again stressed the need for his party to be treated equally when it came to government-formation talks.

“The position with Fine Gael is what it was before. We are preparing for opposition.

“We think those parties that are now in opposition should form a government. They have more than enough numbers to do so

.

“We are willing to talk to other parties about participating in government if the opposition fails to put together a government.

“But that is not something that we are planning to do or looking for.

“And it could only ever happen on the basis that there is full respect for the fact that we did win 450,000 votes in this election. We have 35 seats.

“We didn’t win this election, but we have almost as many seats and votes as Fianna Fáil and not that many fewer than Sinn Féin.

“But I don’t see any evidence yet that that is recognised by any other party.”

Mr Varadkar’s defence of Fine Gael’s support and standing with voters comes amid recent speculation the issue of a rotating taoiseach may be a factor in any deal between him and Mr Martin.

When his predecessor, Enda Kenny, offered Mr Martin a full partnership government after the 2016 general election, this included a proposal for a rotating taoiseach where each leader would hold the role for half a Dáil term. It was rejected by Mr Martin.

Asked about the same scenario forming part of these fresh coalition talks, Mr Varadkar said this was not even discussed when he took the call from Mr Martin on Thursday night.

Senior Fianna Fáil sources are also insisting this will not form part of the opening meeting between the two leaders when they meet next week.

“The issue of a rotating taoiseach is beyond premature,” said a source.

Party sources expect Mr Varadkar to push to be considered an equal in any government talks, even though Fianna Fáil came back with three more seats than Fine Gael.

“We can see where Leo is going to try and go with this. But this is about policy and not personalities or positions,” explained the same source.

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