Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will have an equal share of cabinet seats when the new Government is formed, Micheál Martin has said.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, he said the deal largely agreed by the parties yesterday is an “equal partnership”.
“The spirit of this has to be one of trust and mutual respect,” he said. “I’ve been in coalitions before and what’s crucial is that there’s utter transparency and engagement in advance of meetings and so on and there are no surprises. In terms of ministries, that will all get worked out in that spirit of partnership.”
Regarding who would be taoiseach first, Mr Martin said he and Mr Varadkar will have to come to a sensible, sustainable arrangement.
“We met about four weeks ago, before he went to New York, and we had a clear understanding of how this would work. There will be further meetings obviously.
I have a matter-of-fact and professional relationship with the Taoiseach. I am a realist and think you should try and form a government after an election.
He said given the scale of the crisis facing the country, a majority government for five years is required.
“If you’re in a government where you think there’s an election in 12 months, you won’t make the kind of decisions that are necessary,” he said. “We need government that commands a majority and it should be a five-year government, because I think it needs that in order to [give] sustainability to all sides.”
Mr Martin confirmed the deal will include a radical multi-billion euro stimulus package aimed at rebooting the economy post-Covid-19.
“I think the economists globally are of a view that austerity isn’t the way to deal with this crisis — the opposite actually,” said Mr Martin. “Keynesian economics are back in fashion to a certain extent, that this is the time that you use your welfare system and that you use your public services to drive on the economy.
“Underpinning the document is this idea of how do we restart our economy to try and mitigate the worst of the recession? It means targeted and comprehensive planning, sector-by-sector, utilising freer and more flexible State aid rules, fiscal rules, and also a toleration of higher deficits.
“But if one is to have higher deficits to stimulate the economy, that will require, I think, supports on a more cohesive basis from Europe, and it is disappointing to see the level of disputation that’s going on in Europe.”
Mr Martin said the bedrock of the document is a move towards a more State-oriented society in terms of health and housing.
What we are talking about is creative State intervention in terms of provision of public housing and provision of affordable housing, and a greater move towards a single-tier health system. That would be the objective.
Mr Martin made clear that the huge rise in healthcare spending on foot of Covid-19 must be maintained.
“The gains of the allocations for health would have to be retained, in my view,” he said.
“Substantial additional investment has gone in over the past month, above what had been allocated. The general view is investment in our health service will have to continue.”