Friday 23 March 2018

Cold water poured on Independent bid for five at Cabinet

Sean Canney: ‘Numbers have not yet been discussed’. Photo: Tom Burke
Sean Canney: ‘Numbers have not yet been discussed’. Photo: Tom Burke

Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

Independent TDs want five Cabinet posts - but they will not get this unless all 14 who have been involved in talks sign up to a minority government, Fine Gael sources have said.

Cold water has been poured on Independent Alliance TD Finian McGrath's suggestion that five or six ministries should go to non-party deputies as part of a deal to return Enda Kenny as Taoiseach,

A senior Fine Gael source said that many Cabinet posts would be too many for Independents to expect, unless all 14 are involved in a new administration.

"It all depends on the size of the government," said the source. "If we only reach 58 TDs it'll be less, but if we end up with 65-plus then more Cabinet seats would be shared out. Those kind of things are impossible to quantify until people sign up."

Dublin Bay North TD Finian McGrath outlined the main issues of concern to his group.

They include that there would be an agreement for the government to last at least three Budgets, and that there would be "full parity of esteem" for Independents taking part.

RTÉ radio presenter Seán O'Rourke asked how many non-Fine Gael ministers should be in Cabinet and Mr McGrath replied "a third" saying that five "would be a minimum" and he later suggested the number could be as high as six.

Mr McGrath added that his group aren't just talking about "bums on seats and Cabinet seats here. What we're trying to do is we're trying to bring in new politics into the new government."

Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice told the Irish Independent that agreeing programme for government was more important that who got Cabinet posts.

He said if Independents are going to help people in their constituencies and the country as a whole, then a programme for government that would do that is important, "not Mercs and perks".

Asked if he would take a Cabinet position if offered, he replied: "I don't know too many that would ever refuse it. But I would refuse it if I didn't agree a programme for government."

He said "probably agriculture or rural affairs" would be his preferred choice.

Galway East TD Seán Canney, another, said that the number of Cabinet posts being sought hasn't yet been discussed by the group.

He also said the "most important thing is getting policies right", and listed the homeless crisis and health among issues that need to be tackled.

He didn't rule out accepting a ministerial job - but also did not specify which position he would prefer.

'Rural Five' Independent deputy Dr Michael Harty said he thought Mr McGrath's figure for Cabinet seats was "very generous".

He said he would expect the number or ministries to be broadly proportionate to the number of Independents signing up to government with "a slight tweaking in favour of the Independents".

He said his group will need to see a written agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil before committing to a minority government including that it would last three Budgets.

The Clare TD said he has "not given a whole lot of thought" to a Cabinet job. He said that if that were offered one he'd be interested in areas he is knowledgeable in like health or rural affairs. "I couldn't see myself being the junior minister for finance," he said.

Dublin Central Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan said that "in principle" she believes there should be Independents in Cabinet.

She said it could be "difficult" to take a ministerial job because she has been "very critical of Fine Gael's economic policies" but that she will continue with talks and isn't "ruling anything out or in at this point".

Irish Independent

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