Wednesday 24 October 2018

Historic deal to see first Fine Gael Taoiseach re-elected

The building at Trinity where the talks took place (Photo: Tom Burke) Insets: Enda Kenny, Micheal Martin, Frances Fitzgerald and Michael McGrath
The building at Trinity where the talks took place (Photo: Tom Burke) Insets: Enda Kenny, Micheal Martin, Frances Fitzgerald and Michael McGrath

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

A historic deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has cleared the way for Enda Kenny to be re-elected Taoiseach.

The two parties finally agreed on a five-page draft document last night ahead of negotiations between Fine Gael and Independent TDs on Monday.

The Irish Independent understands the deal includes:

■ An extension to the Mortgage Interest Relief Scheme.

■ Rent supplement to be increased on a county-by-county basis by up to 15pc.

■ A commitment to tackle high variable mortgage interest rates, including legislation if possible.

■ A review of the locations of garda stations.

■ A €15m fund to help reduce hospital waiting lists.

■ A subvention for childcare provider and scope for a possible tax credit for parents.

■ The suspension of water charges.

■ An assessment of public pay rates.

■ Improvements in the allocation of guidance counsellors.

■ A renewed focus on rural development.

The first page of the document deals with exactly how the "confidence and supply" arrangement will work on a day-to-day basis.

It explicitly states that Fianna Fáil is entitled to provide "robust" opposition but will abstain on votes of no confidence in the Taoiseach or ministers until at least September 2018, provided they are kept informed of any potential crises that might arise.

Marathon talks at Trinity College ended shortly before 7pm yesterday and the Fine Gael negotiating team rushed back to Government Buildings to meet with members of the Independent Alliance.

Sources say acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended that meeting for about five minutes and told Shane Ross, Sean Canney, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran and Finian McGrath that they were about to take part in "a new and very big process".

The Independents were briefed on the draft agreement between the two big parties but were not given copies of the deal as Fianna Fáil wants its parliamentary party to endorse it first.

Full talks about a programme for government will begin at 10am on Monday with the Independent Alliance, followed by talks with the so-called 'Rural Five' at 6pm.

Katherine Zappone and Michael Lowry have already said they will support Mr Kenny's election.

He wants to be in a position to appoint his new Cabinet next Wednesday; however, one Independent said that this is unlikely to happen.

"It will take three or four days at least to iron out some difficult points which we see as fundamental.

"We need at least one or two big things that will stand out at the end of this," the source said.

With the exception of a detailed page and a half on the suspension of water charges, the policy agreements have been kept "broad" and are mostly in bullet point format.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath told reporters outside the talks at Trinity College that housing had been the biggest issue in the talks, even though water had dominated much of their time.

"The housing emergency is the single most important issue facing this country and the single biggest challenge facing the incoming government," he said.

Neither party would last night reveal details of their pact on housing - but the Irish Independent understands it includes an extension to the Mortgage Interest Relief Scheme which is due to expire next year. It is worth around €850 a year.

Fine Gael has also agreed that the rent supplement will be increased by "up to 15pc" in the coming years - but over time those receiving this payment will transition on to the Housing Assistance Payment, which is paid directly to landlords.

There is also a commitment by Fine Gael to increase the output of social housing.

The two parties are to hold simultaneous meetings of their parliamentary parties, most likely on Monday, to endorse the agreement.

Irish Independent

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