Finalising programme for Government over next two weeks a 'significant ask', says Coveney

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has said it is a "significant ask" to finalise a draft programme for government document for party leaders in the next two weeks.
Finalising programme for Government over next two weeks a 'significant ask', says Coveney
Mr Coveney said there was a huge amount of work to do in the next two weeks to try and get a deal over the line.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has said it is a "significant ask" to finalise a draft programme for government document for party leaders in the next two weeks.

But the deputy Fine Gael leader also told colleagues during a private parliamentary party meeting this evening that good progress had been made during the three-party negotiations, including on crunch climate change policies.

His remarks came after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan met earlier today to review negotiations.

The former two leaders continued talking on their own afterwards, in part over a row that broke out on the weekend about government preparations for any snap general election. But a statement later signalled this was resolved.

The same statement, issued by all three parties, said:

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to successfully concluding the talks and to negotiating in good faith.

Sources from the parties also said Mr Varadkar, despite the provisional plans to hold an emergency election during the pandemic if needs be, was very keen to successfully put the coalition together.

“The public don't care for any quick vote or election. That would never work and is a total distraction from the essence of the talks. Leo does want this to work.” said one senior source from the Green Party.

The statement from all three reiterated that the government formation negotiations would remain confidential. Crucially, all three in the statement added:

“All parties are working to conclude a draft programme for government by the end of the month and for its consideration by each party in accordance with their respective arrangements thereafter.”

During a private teleconference with Fine Gael TDs, senators and MEPs tonight, Mr Coveney-who is leading the negotiations for his party,-relayed that there was just two weeks to conclude the coalition effort. According to several sources, he said Mr Varadkar had told him that a programme for government must be ready to present to him, Mr Martin and Mr Ryan at the end of the month.

“That is a significant ask,” Mr Coveney said, given that all three parties had only adjusted to the trilateral talks in recent weeks.

However, Mr Coveney signalled that good progress had been made, particularly when it came to the difficult negotiating issue of climate change, which the Greens have signalled is red line for any deal to be backed.

But he told colleagues that these proposals on climate action would be difficult and would have to be brought back to the party for reference.

Mr Coveney said there was a huge amount of work to do in the next two weeks to try and get a deal over the line.

This is so the parties can then go back to their memberships to have any agreement approved.

This process will be the most challenging for the Green Party who require two thirds of their members to back any programme for government.

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