Sunday 17 December 2017

Water charges not a 'red line issue', Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin tells TDs

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. Pic: Mark Condren
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. Pic: Mark Condren

Niall O’Connor and John Downing

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin has said water charges is not a “red line issue” and will not block any future coalition talks.

Mr Martin has today contradicted claims by his own Environment spokesperson Barry Cowen who earlier this week said charges must be scrapped if the party is to support a coalition involving Fine Gael.

Addressing Fianna Fáil’s first parliamentary party meeting since the General Election, Mr Martin said there are no red lines issues because no coalition talks with Fine Gael have taken place.

He also said he believed the negotiation process ahead of a government formation could take two months.

But Mr Martin confirmed that “communication channels have been opened” with the Green Party and the Social Democrats ahead of next week’s vote for Taoiseach. He also confirmed that the party is willing to talk to anyone about forming a government.

Addressing the meeting, which was attended by the party’s 25 newly-elected TDs, Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív said the party must focus on delivering a three point plan in the coming weeks.

Firstly, he said the party is focussed on delivering a suite of Dáil reform. Secondly, the party agreed to focus heavily on policy areas, especially homelessness.

Thirdly, Mr Ó Cuív said the party must work on ensuring Mr Martin secures more support than Enda Kenny during the vote for Taoiseach on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the party has agreed to put one TD forward for the vacant Ceann Comhairle post. The vote is due to take place on Thursday morning. Four Fianna Fáil deputies are in the running: Michael Moynihan (Cork North West), Séan Ó Fearghail (Kildare South), Brendan Smith (Cavan/Monaghan) and Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher (Donegal).

During today’s meeting, Mr Gallagher outlined a number of proposals he will pursue if elected.

These include a change to the voting system at committees and new procedures whereby the party leaders meet each week to decide the order of Dáil business.

His proposals also include changes to prevent ministers sending in their junior counterparts during topical issues to read prepared scripts, and a review of the Friday sittings.

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