Fine Gael parliamentary party gives green light to coalition framework document

The Fine Gael parliamentary party has signed off on the framework document aimed at forming a coalition with Fianna Fáil, with TDs saying that "pragmatism" was needed given the Dáil arithmetic, despite some concerns being raised about the practicalities of how a grand coalition would work.
Fine Gael parliamentary party gives green light to coalition framework document

The Fine Gael parliamentary party has signed off on the framework document aimed at forming a coalition with Fianna Fáil, with TDs saying that "pragmatism" was needed given the Dáil arithmetic, despite some concerns being raised about the practicalities of how a grand coalition would work.

TDs received copies of the 22-page framework document on Wednesday afternoon, with a lengthy parliamentary party meeting held by video call.

It is understood that nearly every Fine Gael TD, senator and MEP gave a contribution to the meeting, which heard concerns from a small number of TDs.

It is understood that while members expressed wishes for additions to and deletions from the document, no red-line issues were raised and no discussion was had on cabinet posts.

In fact, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is believed to have told the meeting that in an equal partnership with Fianna Fáil, every member of Cabinet, himself included, was "up for a demotion".

Much of the opposition came from Mayo TD and Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring. Mr Ring is believed to have voiced concerns about Fine Gael's ability to make a partnership with Fianna Fáil last long-term. Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan expressed fears that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil may cannibalise each other electorally.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed also articulated concerns at the difficulty that Fine Gael will face to carve out an identity in government with Fine Gael, particularly with Sinn Féin on the opposition benches.

However, Mr Creed was said to be supportive of moving on to the next stage with the document - searching for a third party and negotiating with independents. He told the meeting that while he had huge concerns, he saw no other way forward for government formation.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed

Doubts were also raised by Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farrell, Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan and Senator Jerry Buttimer, though these are described as being “muted” concerns.

Document

Sources say that there was little in the way of concrete criticism of the document itself, largely because it was felt to be both ambitious and aspirational. Members of the parliamentary party raised individual concerns about certain items which were either in the document or omitted, but they were assured that when negotiations around a programme for government begin, their ideas will be taken on board.

This meant that there was what one source called a "broad consensus" to agreeing the document and empowering Fine Gael's negotiating team with moving on to the next stage of negotiations. It is understood that Fine Gael will look to host a postal ballot of members if and when a programme for government is agreed.

However, sources said that it was now clear that a government won't be formed in the coming weeks. A more realistic timeframe, it is felt, would be July.

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