Fine Gael TDs warned not to be 'buoyed' by snap election

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned Fine Gael TDs about being “buoyed” up for any snap election and said his party would be in a “weak” position trying to justify one to the public.
Fine Gael TDs warned not to be 'buoyed' by snap election

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned Fine Gael TDs about being “buoyed” up for any snap election and said his party would be in a “weak” position trying to justify one to the public.

He said he hoped to form a government by the end of May or early June, potentially with the help of the Labour and Independents on top of the Greens.

He told his parliamentary party it would be a long-lasting coalition that would “ensure the middle classes are not hit” by new taxes but also protects farmers as well as businesses.

A long video-conference meeting on Tuesday evening of TDs, senators and MEPs heard contrasting views about attempts by Fine Gael to agree a coalition with Fianna Fail and the Greens.

Mr Varadkar said he understood there was “disquiet” among his party about the negotiations and move to form the three-party coalition, but that the proposed government-if it worked-could very good for the country.

He said “the world was changing” and that there was a need to embrace the digital economy and decarbonisation.

He said a big role of Fine Gael’’s would be to try and reassure businesses that this would be a “green recovery” in which rural Ireland would also be protected, farmers in particular.

Fine Gael would need to ensure any programme for government helped “middle class working people” so they were not hit by a “raft of new taxes”.

Party sources stressed that a crucial point in any coalition programme agreed with Fianna Fail and the Greens would be “the living standards of middle income people”.

He set out how having the support of five Independents, on top of the Greens, would bring the coalition numbers to 90, but that with Labour this could be increased further to 96.

Such a coalition make-up would last until at least 2024 or 2025, the meeting heard.

These numbers would also provide a buffer for any TD who dropped support, “defected” or left any of the groups or parties, Fine Gael members were told.

Mr Varadkar also addressed recent internal suggestions, including by junior ministers, that there could be a general election in the autumn. A weekend poll showed support for Fine Gael surgung to 35%, well ahead of the bruising results in February’’s election for the party.

But Mr Varadkar warned members not be “buoyed” on by polls or talk of an election and for such talk or opinions to be “tempered” with realism.

He noted that “every government in the world” was doing well in opinion polls.

He went on to warn about any such snap general election and that Fine Gael would be in a “weak” position trying to explain one away to the electorate.

A number of members highlighted worries about Green demands in government.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed told the party the already-agreed 3.5% cut in emissions - besides the Greens' target of 7% - was "very challenging" for farmers, concerns that were echoed by local government minister John Paul Phelan.

Junior public expenditure minister Patrick O’Donovan also highlighted concern about wind energy, and how wind turbines often didn’t turn on good days.

More in this section