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Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael ramp up talks on government formation

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Call for action: Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly and leader Mary Lou McDonald at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Collins

Call for action: Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly and leader Mary Lou McDonald at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Collins

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Call for action: Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly and leader Mary Lou McDonald at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Collins

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are set for three days of government formation talks this week as the parties move towards forming a grand coalition.

The main focus of the initial stages of the talks will be on measures to address the outbreak of the coronavirus.

However, there will also be discussions between the negotiating teams on other areas of policy.

Central to the talks will be discussions around supports for those worst affected by the unprecedented outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.

Fianna Fáil sources said the parties would have to look at measures that would protect a range of groups including employers, employees, homeowners and renters.

Both parties accept the majority of their election manifesto proposals are no longer achievable and a vast amount of available government resources will now be spent on dealing with the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. The Department of Finance is examining how to support renters and mortgage holders who face being left out of pocket due to being out of work during the crisis.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald called on the banks to offer customers a holiday on their mortgage payments during the pandemic and said the Government should introduce measures to protect renters.

"We need rent support for private renters, we need a moratorium on all evictions, we need a mortgage repayments holiday and we need a freeze in utility bills and disconnections," Ms McDonald said.

"We also need Irish Water and the ESB to discontinue all non-essential maintenance to ensure that everyone has running water and working electricity during this period of uncertainty," she added.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael's plans to secure the support of the Green Party for their coalition suffered a major blow yesterday when Eamon Ryan insisted a national government was still the best option for the country.

In a statement published after a parliamentary party meeting, the Green Party leader said tackling the virus required an "all-of-government approach".

"We are again calling on parties to suspend talks on forming a majority government and come together around a crisis national unity government," he said.

"This would bring together all parties and Independents to form a cabinet split proportionately and could be done in a way to minimise the disruption for departments dealing directly with the crisis," he added.

A Green Party source said there were different views on the decision to hold the line on seeking a national government. However, the source said there was broad consensus on the final decision after a lengthy debate among party members.

Fine Gael's parliamentary party was due to meet this week to discuss entering into official programme for government talks with Fianna Fáil.

However, the meeting is not expected to take place ahead of the talks between the two parties.

Last week, Leo Varadkar wrote to party members to say he was appointing a team to negotiate with Fianna Fáil.

A scheduled vote for Taoiseach due to take place on Thursday has been cancelled.

But the Dáil will reconvene to vote on emergency measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Parties and political groups have agreed to send reduced numbers to attend the sitting.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael will each send 11 TDs to the sitting while the Green Party will send four.

The smaller parties and groupings will send one or two representatives depending on their numbers.

Irish Independent