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Rent freeze, carbon tax key to SF-Green coalition talks


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Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Eamon Ryan of the Green Party

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Eamon Ryan of the Green Party

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald and Eamon Ryan of the Green Party

A rent freeze and carbon tax hikes will be key to unlocking a deal as left-wing parties scramble to form the next government.

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Sinn Féin is insisting on freezing rents as a condition of forming a government but is preparing to U-turn on its opposition to carbon tax increases to win the support of the Green Party.

Banks and vulture funds will also be hit with a raft of new taxes under Sinn Féin’s plans as fears grow among the business community.

Meanwhile, it has emerged some senior Fianna Fáil TDs are willing to abstain on a Dáil vote to elect Mary Lou McDonald as Taoiseach. The move would see Ms McDonald lead a minority government but not have the power to pass budgets or legislation. “We should abstain on a Taoiseach vote, let them take power and be a constructive opposition party that holds government to account,” a frontbench TD said.

However, a source close to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said they could not see a scenario where they would vote for, or abstain on a vote for, Ms McDonald.

Last night, Sinn Féin appointed its negotiating team but excluded David Cullinane who caused controversy by saying “up the Ra” at a post-election campaign celebration. Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty was appointed to lead the talks along with Eoin Ó Broin, Louise O’Reilly and Matt Carthy.

Mr Doherty said there was a “huge mandate” to deliver a break for renters after the Dáil passed legislation to freeze rents for three years and give renters a tax rebate of up to €1,500 two months ago.

Mr Doherty also set out plans to force property funds and banks to pay more tax with increases in the bank levy and changes to rules that allow banks to write off corporation tax against historic losses also on the cards.

"We're very clear that we have to end the tax loopholes for some of the property funds and some of the companies that are making the headlines today," he said.

"Vulture funds need to start paying their taxes."

Mr Doherty's comments followed shares of banks and real-estate firms racking up significant losses for a second successive day due to concerns Sinn Féin could enter government.

"Sinn Féin's key proposals are geared towards low-­income families and the residential real-estate market.

"Proposals such as rent freezes and further moves in commercial stamp duty have created some near-term uncertainty in the Irish real-estate market," stockbrokers Davy said.

Meanwhile, the Green Party's 12 new TDs met yesterday for the first time to discuss entering government.

Speaking after the parliamentary party meeting, newly re-elected Dublin Fingal TD Joe O'Brien said they would not immediately be setting out any red lines.

Mr O'Brien said the TDs "reflected" on the outcome and cleared the path for Green Party leader Eamon Ryan to open talks with his counterparts.

"We will let the leadership test the waters with the other leaders and meet again later this week," he said.

Mr O'Brien said he hoped carbon taxes would feature in a programme for government but did not insist on it being a deal breaker.

Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn signalled the party would be open to change its position on carbon tax increases.

"I would say that climate change is a very important issue and the Greens have a significant mandate there," he said. "I don't see that being a barrier for us."

Meanwhile, a number of Independent TDs will hold exploratory talks about forming alliances and Dáil technical groups in the coming days.

Most of those contacted yesterday indicated a willingness to talk to Sinn Féin.

Among the other Independent TDs thought to be interested in holding talks to form a government are Denis Naughten, a former cabinet minister, as well as rural TDs Thomas Pringle, Noel Grealish and Michael Fitzmaurice.

Sligo-Leitrim TD Marian Harkin, a former MEP, said: "Plan A is an alliance of rural TDs with a common cause and agreement to try and hammer out something and also an absolute commitment that when that's done that we hold together."

Outgoing Minister of State Seán Canney said: "If people want to talk to me, I am open to talking to them, including Sinn Féin."

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara said he would give thought to being involved in an alliance with other Independents.

Former Sinn Féin-turned-Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín hopes to hold talks with a handful of Independent TDs later this week.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin contacted the leaders of Labour and the Social Democrats yesterday.

As the leader of the largest party in the 33rd Dáil, Mr Martin may seek to form a minority administration - but he faces considerable difficulties with Labour thought to be unlikely to want to go into government.

Irish Independent