Friday 28 July 2017

End 'Do Nothing Dáil' to keep FF and Independents happy

Varadkar is warned wheels of Government must be accelerated

Members of the Independent Alliance including from left, Sean Canney, Finnian McGrath, Shane Ross, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran and John Halligan speak to media upon arrival at Government Buildings for a meeting with Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Members of the Independent Alliance including from left, Sean Canney, Finnian McGrath, Shane Ross, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran and John Halligan speak to media upon arrival at Government Buildings for a meeting with Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

Leo Varadkar has been told to put the Dáil to work if he wants to win support from Independent ministers and keep Fianna Fáil happy.

Members of the Independent Alliance held talks with the new Fine Gael leader last night at his request - promising they will not attempt to delay his ratification as Taoiseach.

However, Mr Varadkar was warned the wheels of Government must be accelerated. He was also given a 'shopping list' that must be addressed to ensure unity.

During the meeting, OPW Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran sought details of Mr Varadkar's plans for USC reform.

The Independent Alliance is also seeking assurances from Mr Varadkar that it will be allowed a 'free vote' on issues that are not covered by the Programme for Government.

Fine Gael has shown resistance to allowing the Government being split on Dáil votes - but the Independents argue they are not a party and therefore should not be forced to vote in unison.

During the leadership contest the Social Protection Minister revealed he wanted to change Fine Gael's long-standing policy to abolish USC, and instead merge it with PRSI.

"There were a lot of promises made during the campaign. The USC is to be phased out under the Programme for Government, so we need to know what his intentions are," Mr Moran told the Irish Independent.

After the meeting a spokesman for Mr Varadkar said he would now discuss particular issues raised with the relevant line ministers in advance of a subsequent meeting with the Independent Alliance before the weekend.

The Independent Alliance described the 90-minute meeting as "constructive and very satisfactory".

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is scheduled to meet Mr Varadkar today when the issues of housing, health, education and broadband will be top of the agenda. Mr Martin is also expected to complain that the Government has been too slow in passing legislation.

A source close to Mr Varadkar said last night this "frustration" is shared by the minister so they "should find agreement". He is understood to be enthused by the fact Fianna Fáil does not want to reopen full-blown discussions on the confidence and supply agreement that underpins the Government.

It comes as Simon Coveney warned his leadership backers must not be targeted for demotion when Mr Varadkar appoints his ministers.

In a clear signal he will fight for the ministerial careers of Simon Harris, Dara Murphy, Damien English, David Stanton and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, the Housing Minister said: "I feel a loyalty and an obligation to ensure their careers aren't damaged as a result of supporting me. I made that very clear. Leo has very difficult decisions to make."

Mr Coveney met his party colleague for 90 minutes on Saturday during which they discussed Cabinet positions and the challenges facing the Government. The Cork TD said while he is "not a good loser", he is a "realist". Asked on The 'Neil Prendeville Show' on Cork's Red FM if he is to become Tánaiste, Mr Coveney said: "I don't know yet… I obviously want to play as big a role as a I can in government."

Irish Independent

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