Wednesday 16 January 2019

FF gives Varadkar another year in power at a low price

'Brexit overshadows everything,' says Martin in pitch for calm politics

Praise: Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the country was the winner from the new agreement. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Praise: Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the country was the winner from the new agreement. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Stronger laws on digital safety, mortgage rates and bail are central to Fianna Fáil's continued participation in the Confidence and Supply Arrangement, the Irish Independent has learned.

While Micheál Martin did not seek any budgetary commitments in his talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, he demanded that certain pieces of legislation championed by his party be prioritised.

There was surprise when it emerged that Fianna Fáil agreed to keep its rivals in power without getting any major concessions in return.

But Mr Martin said his decision was "the right one for Ireland" because "Brexit overshadows everything".

"Fianna Fáil is determined that the political chaos we see in London will not be allowed to spread to Ireland," he said.

Sources in his party and within Fine Gael last night suggested that, despite the deal, an election could still come long before February 2020. If the uncertainty surrounding Brexit was resolved, it could pave the way for an earlier vote.

In his Dáil statement, Mr Martin said: "Free of Brexit uncertainty there can be an election about the need for a new approach to housing, about ending systematic political failures in health and about addressing the needs of people who want a government which understands their concerns."

Although the extension to the Government's lifespan has been agreed, Fianna Fáil will meet with Fine Gael in the coming days to discuss legislative priorities.

The Irish Independent has established that Mr Martin's list includes a number of bills which are already progressing very slowly.

They include the tougher laws around parole and bail and regulation of variable mortgage interest rates.

The list also includes a bill by backbench TD James Lawless which aims to make political advertising online more transparent and clampdown on fake social media accounts.

Sources say Fianna Fáil wants a larger input in forthcoming legislation on open disclosure, which is a response to the CervicalCheck scandal.

With a looser arrangement now in place, Mr Martin is also expected to ramp up his criticism of the Government's performance.

Early signs of a tough stance were evident yesterday when Mr Martin said the review of the original Confidence and Supply Agreement "confirmed a complacency and lack of urgency in government".

"There is no understanding that the public has a right to be concerned at near-systematic failures to deliver on housing, health and many other issues," he said.

Privately, Fine Gael ministers were jubilant last night - but Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who was involved in the review, said the country was the winner.

He praised Fianna Fáil, saying the Irish political system showed it could "respond when the country needs them".

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section