Sunday 19 May 2019

DEAL DONE: Enda Kenny set to be re-elected Taoiseach as Fianna Fail TDs pass historic minority government deal

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin gives the party's response to the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at Leinster House. Pictures:Arthur Carron
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin gives the party's response to the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at Leinster House. Pictures:Arthur Carron
Micheal Martin, Simon Coveney and Enda Kenny

Niall O'Connor

ENDA Kenny looks set to be the first Fine Gael leader in history to win re-election as Taoiseach after Fianna Fail TDs tonight approved an historic minority government deal.

Water charges will be suspended within six weeks of the new government being formed, according to the deal struck between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The document, entitled ‘A Confidence and Supply Arrangement for a Fine Gael-Led Government”, was agreed after three weeks of negotiations between the two main parties aimed at facilitating a minority Fine Gael-led government.

Rent supplement will be increased by 15pc, the document shows, while garda numbers will also be raised to 15,000.

The two parties also say there will be “targeted supports” to reduce the cost of childcare, as well as the size of primary school classes.

And next year’s Budget will be a 2:1 split in terms of spending measures and tax cuts in what will be seen as a win for Fianna Fáil.

Significantly, it’s been agreed that legislation to suspend water charges will be introduced in the Oireachtas within six weeks of a new government being formed.

The suspension period will last for nine months but may be suspended if deemed necessary by a new Oireachtas committee on the Funding of Domestic Water Services.

The Government will establish within eight weeks an Expert Commission to examine the future of water charges. The Commission will report back after a five month period, the deal says.

Following that, the new Oireachtas committee will make its own recommendations within three months. The recommendations will be voted upon by the Dáil.

This means that in theory, charges could return in 2017 - but that would require this to form a recommendation of the Commission and to be approved by the majority of the Dáil’s 158 TDs.

In relation to housing, it has been agreed to provide greater supports to mortgage holders and a commitment to protect the family home.

And the document says government will work to “significantly increase and expedite the delivery of social housing units.”

The deal between the two parties also pledges to “take all the necessary action to tackle high variable interest rates.”

There is also a commitment to examine all options for increased credit availability in the banking sector.

Reforming the public sector and maintaining a “humane approach” to the issue of discretionary medical cards is also contained in the document.

There is also agreement to restore school guidance counselling services in secondary schools.

Both parties also agree to establishing a so-called ‘Rainy Day’ fund and the establishment of a Public Sector Pay Commission to examine pay levels.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary parties began debating the eight page document in Leinster House this evening.

A section of the document also relates to the mechanics of how a minority administration will function, with the support of Fianna Fáil.

A review of the administration at the end of 2018 is due to take place.

“Should an event arise that has the potential to undermine this agreement, efforts will be made to have it resolved by the two Party leaders,” the document says.

The agreement is described as “political” and “not justiciable”.

According to the document, Fianna Fáil will abstain during votes for Taoiseach and the nomination of ministers and will vote oppose or abstain during votes of no confidence in the Government, as well as financial motions.

Micheál Martin’s party has also pledged to facilitate budget commitments.

Pairing arrangements between the two parties will also be put in place. This will ensure that when a TD is absent, his pair from the opposing party abstains during votes.

There are also a series of commitments given by Fine Gael.

These include:

The acceptance that Fianna Fáil is an “independent party in opposition”

The publication of all agreements with Independents

Having an “open approach to avoiding any policy surprises”

Introducing a reformed budget process

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