Thursday 17 January 2019

'A divine right to power' - Election looms as FF leader launches stinging attack on the Taoiseach

Martin says Varadkar 'needs to cop on a bit'

Micheal Martin Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Micheal Martin Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The likelihood of a general election this year has risen sharply after Fianna Fáil launched its strongest ever attack on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Micheál Martin last night ruled out renegotiating his party's support for the minority Government ahead of October's budget.

He was speaking just hours after Mr Varadkar made it clear that an extension to the deal will have to be discussed over the summer months if the country is to avoid an election in the autumn.

Mr Martin said the Taoiseach was behaving like somebody who believed he had a "divine right to power".

He accused Fine Gael of not showing his party enough respect for offering the country "stability" after the 2016 election.

"He needs to cop on a bit. Respect our bona fides in seeing out the agreement. If they think they are going to get a blank cheque before the budget, they can think again. That's not going to happen," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

Leo Varadkar said preparations are being made for all situations
Leo Varadkar said preparations are being made for all situations

It comes as both parties are prepared to facilitate a coronation for Michael D Higgins if he decides to run for a second term in Áras an Uachtaráin.

Sources told the Irish Independent Mr Varadkar is understood to be "ready and waiting" to back the incumbent once he confirms his intention to seek a mandate for another seven years.

The move will make it an uphill struggle for non-party challengers who need 20 TDs and senators to sign their nomination paper.

Senator Gerard Craughwell, who is seeking a nomination to run as an Independent candidate, told the Irish Independent the two main parties were setting "a very dangerous precedent".

He claimed they were combining to "block candidates" by formally endorsing Mr Higgins.

Instead the two main parties are firmly focused on the prospect of a general election as they continue to bicker over when the 'confidence and supply' arrangement underpinning the minority Government should be renegotiated.

The Taoiseach said yesterday that in order for a government "to function, to govern well and look after people's interests and do their business, that government needs to know that it's going to be around in a month's time, or two months' time or three months' time".

"That's why I think it is prudent that we would renew that confidence and supply agreement before it expires," he added.

The confidence and supply arrangement, which was negotiated in the aftermath of the inconclusive 2016 election, states that both parties will "review" its operation "at the end of 2018".

Mr Martin said that if the Taoiseach wanted to change that, then he should pick up the phone rather than talk to the media.

"This is the basic point, Leo should talk to the leader of Fianna Fáil.

"Both parties signed the confidence and supply agreement. It says that in November 2018 there would be a review.

"If he wants to change the agreement unilaterally or if he wants to do it in some other form, surely he should as a basic courtesy seek a meeting with the leader of FF and discuss it," Mr Martin said last night.

He also suggested that Fine Gael may be looking for an election, saying there "might be something else behind" the Taoiseach's public utterances.

Irish Independent

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