Daniel McConnell: Martin on cusp of glory but road was messy, painful and prolonged

The smile on the face said it all.
Daniel McConnell: Martin on cusp of glory but road was messy, painful and prolonged
Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin TD  during Government talks at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin TD during Government talks at Government Buildings, Dublin. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The smile on the face said it all.

Here he was, after nine long difficult years in Opposition, heading into Government Buildings to finalise a deal which is expected to see him become Taoiseach.

Micheál Martin, flanked by his talks delegation - Dara Calleary, Michael McGrath, Anne Rabbitte, Jack Chambers and Thomas Byrne – is now within touching distance of power.

For so long, he has been dismissed, derided as desperate by many in his own party and beyond.

Four years ago, it was his turn to swallow hard on the grit of Confidence and Supply and while he and his party have paid the price for that in terms of seats, it is to his credit that he now finds himself on the cusp of glory.

But, let us not pretend that his expected elevation to the office of Taoiseach is on the back of an overall majority like Jack Lynch enjoyed or from a straight forward coalition which Bertie Ahern led three times.

No this has been a messy, painful and prolonged delivery of a new government facing into enormous challenges with a significant amount of doubt hanging over its ability to stay together.

And that's before you consider Fianna Fáil's current poll ratings which are down as low as they were in 2011 when they dropped to just 20 seats in Dáil Eireann.

Following marathon talks which concluded at 4am on Sunday morning, the parties came to an agreement on a Programme for Government with just a few issues to be ironed out by the party leaders.

If the Fianna Fáil was a happy man with what has been achieved, well so can Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin.

Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Throughout the day on Sunday, details of what had been agreed emerged.

What is certain is that the Green Party have won some significant concessions from the other two parties in securing a pathway to delivering the 7% reduction in carbon emissions.

It has been agreed that the carbon tax will rise to €100 a tonne by 2030 as demanded by the Greens.

As reported by the Irish Examiner ten days ago, the Greens have also won a commitment that the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure, including the planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant earmarked for the Shannon estuary area, will be stopped. There will also be a ban on the future exploration of gas in the seas surrounding Ireland.

According to sources, a major bone of contention during the weekend's marathon talks session related to the future allocation of capital spending on transport.

The Greens have also secured a deal which will ensure all future capital investment split on a 2:1 basis in favour of public transport over roads. It is understood that the parties have agreed to an annual spend of €360 million on walking and cycling infrastructure.

By the sounds of it, the Greens have managed to capitalise on the weakness of Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar and extract some real gains which they can sell to their party members.

With the need to attract the support of two-thirds of Green Party members, the bar is high, but if the deal is rejected, it will not be the fault of their negotiators.

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