Friday 17 January 2020

Coalition talks timeline: All talk but no action

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Frank McGrath
Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Frank McGrath Newsdesk Newsdesk

How the talks for the formation of a new government progressed this week.

Monday March 28th

Government formation talks take a back seat as events to mark the 1916 Rising continue and Taoiseach Enda Kenny attends the Grand National in Fairyhouse. He said he was “working very hard” on forming a new government “in the shortest time possible”. It emerges that Fine Gael would be willing to backtrack on plans to scrap the Universal Social Charge if Fianna Fáil rows back on plans to suspend water charges to secure backing for a minority government led by Mr Kenny.

Tuesday March 29th

Independents warn Fine Gael to issue solid proposals and to make contact with Fianna Fáil. Michael Healy-Rae accuses Leo Varadkar of not listening; the health minister accuses him of taking phone calls at the table. Fianna Fáil’s Éamon Ó Cuív says his party will not compromise on plans to suspend water charges. Legal advice to Irish Water that scrapping the charges is against EU law is published in the media.

Wednesday March 30th

Marathon talks continue between Independents and Fine Gael as the party outlines proposals on agriculture, climate change and justice. Minister Richard Bruton angers Fianna Fáil by saying Fine Gael would not support a Fianna Fáil-led minority government. Fianna Fáil insists that water charges can be scrapped. Acting Tánaiste Joan Burton faces criticism at a stormy Labour Party meeting as Brendan Howlin’s name is mentioned as a potential successor. Independent Michael Healy-Rae says a snap election could be called for May 20.

Thursday March 31st

Five weeks after the election, first contact is made between the leaders of the two main parties. However, a farcical row erupts over who initiated the contact. Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin calls acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Mr Kenny later tries unsuccessfully to call back to arrange a meeting for Friday, then sends the offer by text. Mr Martin doesn’t reply immediately but tells the press he’s made contact with Mr Kenny. Fine Gael sources accuse Fianna Fáil of “playing games” while sources in Mr Martin’s party say this is “nonsense”. The leaders talk again on Thursday night and agree to meet after Wednesday’s vote on the election of a Taoiseach. Healthcare, services for people with disabilities and political reform are discussed by Fine Gael and the Independents.

Friday April 1st

Finance minister Michael Noonan weighs in to talks between Fine Gael and the Independents, with the economy and plans for USC on the agenda. Finance officials warn that a second election will cost taxpayers €40m. Mr Noonan paints a pessimistic outlook of the country’s finances and tells TDs there will be no “money to play with” over the next two years. Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen lashes out at Fine Gael after Richard Bruton’s remarks that his party wouldn’t support Mr Cowen’s party if it tried to form a minority government. He said: “I hope and expect the majority of Fine Gael don’t treat us like dirt on their shoe.”

Irish Independent

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