The Dáil’s three smaller parties all say they will read the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil policy document — but none is willing to commit further.
Privately, some with Labour, the Green Party and the Social Democrats are "bemused" at the delay in sending them the document. Having signalled that it would be with party leaders on Friday afternoon, it will now go to the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parliamentary parties on Tuesday. This means that it will likely be Wednesday morning before parties can begin discussing the document.
One source said that the delay is "a huge waste of time we don’’t have", while another questioned whether the delay shows consideration for smaller parties.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has repeated this week that he believes that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and independent TDs alone cannot form a stable government and has publicly reached out to the three smaller parties.
On Monday, the Taoiseach said that he understood those parties would not do so without a "core part" of their manifestoes being included in the policy document, described as a "broad outline" of how a government would look.
“I think for government to have a functioning majority, to be able to lead the country for the next four to five years, we need a third party. A third pillar is vital and I’’m absolutely sure that the Green Party wouldn’t participate in such a government unless there was a very strong climate action and biodiversity agenda as part of that. The Social Democrats have focused a lot on making universal health care a reality in Ireland, I’m sure they would want that to be part of any coalition agreement, Labour have a huge interest in areas like health and child care and housing."
Among the smaller parties, there are a number of concerns. While all are prepared to give the document a fair reading, some in all three parties worry about aligning their left-wing politics with Fine Gael, particularly. Other concerns centre on the likelihood of sharing government benches with a disparate and politically diverse group of independents, which would again leave very different ideologies at the Cabinet table.
Another sticking point is the Covid-19 crisis. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe outlined on Friday the level of contraction in the Irish economy, fuelling fears of an austerity regime more swingeing than in the last decade. Some smaller parties have voiced doubts as to whether they would want to be the ones to impose this level of cuts on their constituents. Others have looked to the experience of the Greens in 2011 and Labour in 2016, when both suffered electoral drubbings as the minor coalition party.