Fine Gael leader, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, is prepared to “let Micheál Martin sweat” and did not seek a mandate to continue talks with Fianna Fáil from his party.
The party’’s TDs gathered yesterday ahead of the second day’’s sitting of the 33rd Dáil and heard from Mr Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe about talks with the Green Party and Fianna Fáil earlier in the week.
The absence of a request from Mr Varadkar for a mandate to enter formal talks on a programme for government was seen as significant and the mood of the party meeting was to head into opposition.
While the majority of the meeting was consumed by matters relating to the Coronavirus, it was clear that there will be no progress in the immediate future. One Fine Gael minister said: “Leo seems happy to let Micheál Martin sweat. He knows Micheál is under pressure from within his own and he also knows despite losing the election, his position as leader is secure. The same cannot be said of the Fianna Fáil leader."
In a statement on the meeting, party chairman, Martin Heydon, said: “At today’s Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting, An Taoiseach & Fine Gael President Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Finance & Party Director of Organisation Paschal Donohoe, updated members on the policy discussions with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.”
“Members heard that they were good exploratory discussions with both parties this week,” Mr Heydon said.
Health Minister Simon Harris said a crunch point will come but he believes there are several more weeks before a government. Mr Harris said yesterday’’s engagement with Fianna Fáil was constructive but he said the irony is not lost on him that people who had been calling for the past nine years to get Fine Gael out now want to go into government with them.
Meanwhile, Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs have urged the public to attend a march this Saturday in Dublin to stop “the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil stitch-up”. They said that any coalition between the two parties would be a “slap in the face” to people who believed they were voting for change in the recent General Election. The deputies said there would be protests “on the streets” against such a government, if it took office.
However, the TDs conceded that if a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition can muster a Dáil majority and take office it will be a “democratically legitimate” and “legally constituted” government.
Speaking along with student and homelessness activists, TDs Paul Murphy, Bríd Smith and Mick Barry said that such a government would seek to “halt the demand for radical change”. In a statement they said: “People need to get out on the streets and show their support for a left-wing government, one that will push for the real change that is so desperately needed."
The march takes place in Dublin this Saturday, meeting at the Garden of Remembrance at 1pm.