Government formation: Green Party demand cap on building profits

Fine Gael Minister: "I can't really talk about the Greens without trashing them"
Government formation: Green Party demand cap on building profits
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, and deputy leader Catherine Ryan

Capping the profits private developers can make building on public land has emerged as the major roadblock in government formation talks, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

Despite stinging criticism from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that they are delaying progress, the Green Party is holding out for much greater governance controls for the Land Development Agency, which will oversee a radical homebuilding project.

Yesterday, the parties were also unable to agree on the plan to reduce carbon emissions by 7%. A full plenary meeting will take place today to “nail down” outstanding matters.

In addition to housing and emissions, there is no agreement on increasing the pension age to 67, contrary to reports, mid Fianna Fáil opposition.

“It is a non-runner,” said one source. “Experts don’t go knocking on doors in January looking for votes.”

Sources connected with the talks have confirmed the issue of the future of the LDA has become intractable, with the Greens voicing “serious concerns” about how it will operate.

“There are major concerns there are no governance structures as things stand, there are concerns that the private developers will be able to make quite a lot of money out of public land.

"We think it should be capped because it’s public land where they will make their monies. And then it’s the actual use of that land as well, it should be affordable for buyers,” said one party source.

It appears the leaders of the three parties — Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin, and Eamon Ryan — will be called upon to resolve the impasse.

Several sources have also said Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael appear ready to agree to give the Greens a “cast-iron guarantee” that the Shannon LNG fossil fuel project will be abandoned.

“That’s something our Green Party members are demanding. There’s no way this will pass unless that is like a cast-iron guarantee,” a Green Party source said.

Sources in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil said “it is possible” such a concession will have to be made.

In response, several senior Fine Gael ministers have said they believe the talks will fail because of the Green Party’s refusal to compromise on key issues. “There is no way this can work, the Greens aren’t up to it,” said one Fine Gael minister.

“I can’t really talk about the Greens without trashing them,” said another.

“It has gotten to the point where we have raised the LDA so many times, it is like: ‘Well, can we put this to bed?’. But the Greens do not seem ready to do that, so there is a major frustration there,” said the minister.

Another leading negotiator said there is a major concern about which wing of the Green Party they are negotiating with. “It is difficult as we don’t know who is with Eamon Ryan and who is not.

"You go into negotiations and you are asking yourself which wing are we dealing with,” said one source.

The senior Green sources rejected such criticisms.

“We have made it known we will meet at any time, anywhere.

“In terms of scheduling, we have had a number of sessions cancelled because a number of Fine Gael ministers were not available and keep pulling the plug on us,” the source said.

“We’d be known for telling them we can do anytime, we can work around any availability. That is our go-to line. It is FG who have changed and postponed meetings.”

The Greens have insisted they are not divided in the talks, saying they are operating as one “united force" to get the best deal possible.

Sources have said the parties failed to agree on emissions in the agriculture sector at the talks yesterday, with concerns raised about the impact on live exports.

“Economic issues need to be nailed down, as does the pension age and the overall plan for emissions targets,” said one source.

Tonight’s plenary meeting will see a number of papers cleared and signed off on less contentious areas.

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