Thursday 19 April 2018

Q&A: The deal for Government

Acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly Photo: Gerry Mooney
Acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly Photo: Gerry Mooney Newsdesk

What makes this different from a Programme for Government?

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been very careful to stress that they are not in a coalition. Micheál Martin's party will "facilitate" the election of a government but won't "support" it on a day-to-day basis. The key difference from a Programme for Government is that this document specifically states that Fianna Fáil is an independent party in Opposition. The policy agreements are also much more vague than what might be expected in a Programme for Government.

Are both sides entirely happy with the deal?

TDs in both parties accept that Fianna Fáil got some major concessions, particularly on water charges. They will be pleased with the outcome - but ultimately Fine Gael will be the ones to get the perks of government. They'll have Cabinet posts and the levers of power.

If it's only seven pages, why did it take over two weeks for a deal to be done?

The document spends just over a page outlining the parameters of a minority government and what will be expected from both parties if it is to work. The next two-and-a-half pages contain a series of bullet points described as a 'policy framework'. During the talks, the two parties spent several days discussing the mechanics of minority government before getting to specific policy areas. It's perhaps no surprise that two whole pages - more than a quarter of the document - are devoted to the future of water charges. It was the most divisive issue and took several more days to hammer out.

So what's not in the document?

There's no specific section on health, with few mentions aside from a plan to bring in multi-year funding for the HSE, a commitment to maintaining a "humane approach" to discretionary medical card provision and ring-fencing cash for the National Treatment Purchase Fund. The section on affordable homes offers no help for first-time buyers trying to get on the property ladder, though Fine Gael may yet include such a measure in any deal with Independents. Also, as acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly pointed out in the Dáil yesterday, climate change doesn't get a single mention.

Is there wiggle room for Fianna Fáil if they take issue with the minority government's plans?

Yes, very much so. Fianna Fáil have agreed to abstain to allow Enda Kenny be elected Taoiseach and will also stay out of no-confidence votes. They say they will "facilitate" Budgets provided they are consistent with what's in the document. Fianna Fáil require Fine Gael to recognise the party's right to bring forward its own policy proposals. The document states that "should an event arise that has potential to undermine this agreement efforts will be made to have it resolved by the party leaders". That's a mechanism Fianna Fáil could use to call a halt to Fine Gael plans.

Irish Independent

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