Fine Gael TDs and Senators have expressed doubt as to whether it is credible to commit to reducing carbon emissions by 7% when dealing with a €30 billion deficit this year.
Speaking during a video conference call on Thursday with party chairman, Martin Heydon, several TDs and Senators raised concerns about what a deal with the Green Party would mean for rural Ireland.
Dismissed by some as a “box-ticking” exercise given the absence of key senior ministers such as Simon Coveney and Paschal Donohoe on the call, the meeting still ran for three hours and was the second such meeting this week.
“The party hierarchy are selling the idea of going into government hard. But many remain to be convinced. There is a lot of concern over the Greens and this bonkers commitment to reduce carbon emissions to 7%,” said one party figure.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has “had to apologise” for his “leaky ministers” over a story in the Irish Examiner yesterday.
Speaking on Newstalk, when asked by host Pat Kenny about our report which quoted Cabinet sources that the chances of government formation were 50/50, Mr Varadkar said: “Once again I have to apologise for some of my leaky Ministers. If you go back over the history of our democracy, once talks start – at least up until now – there has always been a deal at the end. Fine Gael has entered these talks in good faith.”
He said government formation talks are “still open” to the Social Democrats and Labour Party. “What’s happened is that talks have begun at long last between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens and it is still open to Labour and the Social Democrats to join those talks, and we’re still keeping in touch with Independents who might be willing to support a new government,” Mr Varadkar said.
“I’m confident that we’ll be able to bring those talks to a conclusion.”
Mr Varadkar said that any agreement with Fianna Fáil will be on the basis of an equal partnership: “We have agreed with Fianna Fáil that any government we take part in will be an equal partnership. The key test for me and people in our party is can we come up with a programme for government that’s in the interests of the country that’s realistic and helps get us through this help crisis – get people back to work, businesses open again, and the economy humming again."
“This is an unprecedented situation politically as well as in terms of the history of our country. There’s always been a deal at the end, and that deal has always been ratified by the parties involved in the Dáil — but things that we believed to always be true up until the last few weeks have turned out to be different."
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, meanwhile, has said he “doesn’t buy the argument” that tackling climate change and helping rural Ireland are mutually exclusive.
A carbon emissions reduction of 7% is a “red-line” for the Green party, but some Fianna Fáil TDs have raised concerns about the impact of that on farming and rural communities.
Mr Martin said that he believed a new government could focus on reducing emissions without damaging rural Ireland in the process: “I don’t buy the argument that climate change and rural Ireland are somehow mutually exclusive — I take an opposite view, actually."