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Varadkar hopes farmers will be 'pleasantly surprised' by government deal

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar said he hopes farmers will be "pleasantly surprised" by a coalition agreement struck by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

He insisted the slow government formation talks are "progressing" and said there's a "strong possibility" a deal will be struck in the coming days.

Negotiating teams from the three parties are meeting this evening to thrash out the remaining sticking points including the Green Party's demand for a 7pc-a-year reduction in carbon emissions.

There are fears in the farming community over how efforts to reduce emissions will impact on the agriculture sector.

But Mr Varadkar said he hopes farmers and rural Ireland will be "pleasantly surprised" by the potential Programme for Government.

He said issues being focused on include the National Broadband Plan (NBP) and how investment in rural infrastructure - including road projects - should continue.

There are to be real and meaningful gains for farmers, such as a REPS2 programme and reforms that will give those working on the land more reliable and new streams of income for doing things we need them to do around climate action and biodiversity.

Mr Varadkar said of the talks: "I know it's taking a long time, but I'd certainly be of the view... that it's better to nail down some issues now, rather than have them become points of conflict during a five year government.

"It's better to take that little bit of extra time to do that."

He said Fine Gael's priorities include a stimulus plan to get people who lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis back to work and guarantees on reducing the Budget deficit once the country returns to economic growth.

He said: "The best way to avoid a return to austerity is to start to bring your debt down... when you can afford to do so.

Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael also wants 'A New Care Deal for Ireland' including improved childcare subsidies, a better work-life balance for parents and statutory homecare for the elderly.

"They're the kind of things that we're pushing quite hard on talks and I think we're getting good progress on them," he said.

Online Editors