Monday 27 January 2020

Healy-Rae says abstention deal was 'a good day's work'

Independent Mattie McGrath at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Collins Photo Agency
Independent Mattie McGrath at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Collins Photo Agency
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Independent TD that arranged the meeting where 14 non-party deputies agreed to abstain from the Dáil vote for Taoiseach called the success of the plan "a good day's work".

Kerry Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said the so-called 'Ag House Agreement' would force Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil back into government formation talks.

He had little sympathy to the confirmation the Fianna Fáil leader won't have his name put forward again to lead a minority government. "If Micheál Martin is off the pitch it was himself that went off the pitch," Mr Healy-Rae said adding Independents were not to blame.

Frustrated with the breakdown in talks between the two main parties, the 14 Independents met before the vote and signed a pact saying they would abstain.

The TDs included Mr Healy-Rae and his brother Danny, the six from the Independent Alliance, the so-called 'Rural Five' and Maureen O'Sullivan of Dublin Central.

They decided to unite after they met in Agriculture House close to the Dáil. They said they are "stepping back from talks on the formation of a new government" and sought an undertaking both parties would support minority governments led by the other.

They also demanded a government deal requiring a minimum of three Budgets "to give stability to the Irish people".

The meeting came after Mr Martin's last-ditch bid to secure some votes from the diverse groups of Independents leading to speculation that some may choose to support Mr Kenny or Mr Martin.

In the end the united front was maintained during the vote. "I think it was a good day's work," Mr Healy-Rae told the Irish Independent afterwards.

"It forced the hand of the party leaders to do something.

"We wanted them to go away and come back with a plan for three Budgets" and he predicted they would now try to do that.

Mr Kenny received just one additional vote from an Independent involved in the government formation talks, Dublin South-West's Katherine Zappone. She wasn't invited to be at the meeting but she said "I believe that was inadvertent".

Tipperary Deputy Michael Lowry also voted for his former party colleague - as he did last week - but he has not been involved in negotiations.

Irish Independent

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