Varadkar, Martin and Ryan to try and overcome major obstacles encountered in talks

Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan are to meet to try and overcome major obstacles encountered in talks between the parties seeking to form a government.
Varadkar, Martin and Ryan to try and overcome major obstacles encountered in talks
Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin

Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan are to meet to try and overcome major obstacles encountered in talks between the parties seeking to form a government.

Issues relating to housing, the pension age, Direct Provision and the country’s roads are among the major stumbling blocks between the parties who cannot agree.

The Green Party is seeking to “gut entirely” the country’s road budget but this is being sharply resisted by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in talks aimed at forming a government.

Sources close to the project have highlighted that a number of key areas including housing, Direct Provision and transport are not yet agreed and will be “kicked up” to the leaders for a final decision.

With the talks entering their fourth week, sources have made clear tensions are running high.

“We are going into week four now and people are getting fed up of the whole thing. It is wearing on people. In any negotiation, you get to that stage and that is where we are,” said one source.

There have been sharp clashes between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil with resentment building that Micheál Martin’s team have sided with the Greens on issues.

“Fine Gael are of the view that there doesn’t need to be any change, so we are kicking against that a good bit,” one source said.

The sessions on transport proved to be “very difficult” because of Green demands to radically reduce the budget for road building and maintenance to allow greater investment in public transport.

“It is not that public transport is the issue, it is what they want to do in cutting the road budget would make it unmanageable and undeliverable even in terms of road maintenance. So, it is the practicalities that aren’t adding up. It can be made add up but do the practicalities make up,” a source said.

Eamon Ryan
Eamon Ryan

The parties will for the first time today grapple with the highly contentious area of agriculture, amid commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 7% a year.

“A lot of work has gone in the past two weeks in trying to address the 7% thing. So, Jack Chambers, Richard Bruton and Brian Leddin have worked hard and should hopefully make things easier tomorrow,” the source said.

With Leo Varadkar setting a deadline of this Friday for a conclusion, a major plenary session on Tuesday is planned to allow the teams sign off on a lot of work agreed upon. Fine Gael's Patrick O'Donovan said he is not sure if there will a draft deal done this week and does not think there is any "immediate panic".

"The timeframe has to be about making sure that a programme for government, is likely to pass all of the hurdles that has to be passed."

Joe O'Brien of the Green Party said there has been a lot of agreement among parties involved in government formation talks, but they have been dealing with a lot of the easier issues and there are stickier issues to deal with yet.

"I think having an agreement by the end of the week is a target, it's probably an optimistic target in my view."

He said he thinks both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have some distance to go before they can get a deal that the Green Party can put to its membership that it thinks will pass.

Meanwhile, John McGuinness has said he's concerned a small party such as the Greens could 'walk out' of any Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition government, and that he would have "much preferred" a national government.

It comes as government formation talks have been continuing between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens this weekend, with the aim of reaching a deal over the next week.

Mr McGuinness, Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow-Killenny, told Newstalk that he believes government formation talks have now gone on for too long.

Mr McGuinness said: "I think the parties are looking over their shoulder far too much, and I would like to see more speed in the delivery of a new government.

"What we don't want to do is end up with a government creating expectations that simply cannot be delivered on. A new government needs to be built on truth and reality,” he said.

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