Sunday 25 September 2016

Willie O'Dea: Fianna Fáil likely to reject Kenny's offer to share 'Mercs and perks'

Cormac McQuinn, Geraldine Gittens, and Barry Lennon

Published 07/04/2016 | 08:52

Willie O'Dea
Willie O'Dea
Minister Simon Coveney

Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea says he believes his parliamentary party will reject the offer of a so-called ‘partnership’ government by Fine Gael.

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Speaking ahead of a meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs this morning, the Limerick TD says he himself will not support the power-sharing offer.

“I would not be supportive of it myself quite frankly… If you look at the results of this general election the people of this country voted to get rid of the outgoing government, they voted to get rid of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach,” he told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

“The people who are supporting me and who are asking about my views on this advance certainly didn’t contemplate that I would be part of this arrangement which would ultimately involve putting Enda Kenny back as Taoiseach and sharing Mercs and perks with Fine Gael.”

Read more: Role of rotating Taoiseach now on offer for Martin in 'equal partnership'

He added:  “From the soundings I’ve got in the very short time since this offer has been made, I think it will be rejected.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin would have the chance to become Taoiseach for two-and-a-half years if the deal is agreed Photo: Mark Condren
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin would have the chance to become Taoiseach for two-and-a-half years if the deal is agreed Photo: Mark Condren

Meanwhile, health minister Leo Varadkar said there has been "no discussion" about whether there would be a rotating Taoiseach in a partnership government involving Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

He said he hoped Fianna Fáil TDs would give the partnership government proposal "due consideration" and said the gap between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil isn't as great as the one that existed between his party and Labour ahead of the last coalition government five years ago.

Both Mr O'Dea and Mr Varadkaar were speaking ahead of a meeting of Fianna Fáil TDs to discussed the partnership government proposal made to Micheál Martin by acting Taoisecah Enda Kenny last night.

Mr Varadkar outlined the possible outcomes should negotiations with Fianna Fáil don't work out.

He said one would be fresh elections which "nobody wants".

He said another possibility was a Fianna Fáil minority government which "isn't viable".

Read more: Enda Kenny offers Fianna Fáil opportunity to take part in ‘partnership’ Government

And he said there remained the possibility of a Fine Gael minority government supported by Independents with the cooperation of Fianna Fáil.

RTÉ’s Seán O'Rourke reminded Mr Varadkar of an Irish Independent column he wrote the day before the election where he said that a "grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would be a forced marriage with Sinn Féin holding the shotgun."

Mr Varadkar said "somehow I knew you'd quote that back to me" adding that he still had "genuine concern" about Sinn Féin becoming the lead opposition party.

However, he said that a minority government requiring the cooperation of the other main party would also put Sinn Féin in that position.

Mr Vardakar the options facing his party and are "all difficult" and were not what they wanted coming into the election.

On the partnership government option with Fianna Fáil and Independents, he said: "We believe this is the best one for our country and the best one for our party."

Asked about his Tweet that he had election posters ready Mr Varadkar said he hoped he wouldn't have to use them and conceded that the post "unsettled some people".

He said that the possibility that there could be a failure to form a government does have to be considered and that it would result in a fresh election.

Read more: 40 days and 40 nights in political wilderness for the party leaders

He said there's "a limit to how long" the country can go without a new government

This morning, agriculture minister Simon Coveney has admitted that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are embarking on talks for a power sharing government amidst residual animosity between the two parties.

Mr Coveney said Fine Gael has spent “a lot of time” looking at options to form a Government, but now it is left with the option of offering Micheál Martin a grand coalition.

“There’s nothing easy here. There’s still a lot of animosity between people in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil towards each other,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“We have looked at all the options. We have spent a lot of time with Independents, we want them to be part of a Government too, those that want to be constructive … we have spent hours and hours and hours discussing, housing, disability, healthcare, so many areas. But the key is here how do you position a Government to solve those problems?”

He said Fine Gael is putting the historical differences between the two parties aside.

“We’re looking forward, not looking back.”

“This is a generenous, real offer. It is not a political manoeuvre by Fine Gael.”

“This is something that we are serious about and want to be generous towards, and we hope that others will respond in the same way.”

He added that the option of a rotating Taoiseach is “not necessarily” a done deal.

Meanwhile, Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil director of elections in the last general election, says Fianna Fáil is aware that there are other options still on the table.

“It is not the only option that’s there – there are other options that are still on the table.”

“My personal view is that I do not think it is wise for the two large parties to coalesce just for the sake of making this a grand gesture.”

But he said: “Fundamentally if it is the only option to govern this country, clearly we will play a very responsible role in that.”

“Fianna Fáil wants to play a role to ensure that we have government in this country, and good government more importantly.”

While Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill admitted the idea of a rotating Taoiseach made any potential Fianna Fáil partnership with Fine Gael more "attractive."

Mr Cahill said although it was too early to say what he thought, it was not like "coalitions in the past."

"This time is different were going in as partnership," he said.

"We have to see the framework first."

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