Sunday 18 March 2018

Fianna Fail open to three years of Varadkar in power

Senior party figures say confidence and supply may be renewed

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Mark Condren
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Fianna Fail is prepared to give Taoiseach Leo Varadkar a full term in office following a review of the confidence and supply deal, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Senior Fianna Fail figures have confirmed the party is open to reviewing and renewing the three-year deal once it expires after the next budget.

The party would then sign up for another two budgets and allow the Fine Gael-led minority government to have a full five-year term in office.

Fianna Fail jobs spokesman Niall Collins said he was in favour of reviewing the confidence and supply arrangement and, if terms can be agreed, allow Mr Varadkar to see out the final two years of the current Dail term.

"I feel that a third budget is very likely because what is in the confidence and supply deal is very achievable and I wouldn't rule out it being reviewed beyond that," Mr Collins told the Sunday Independent. Public Accounts Committee chairman and Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming said he believes the public was "coming around" to the minority government system.

Mr Fleming said the "last thing" people will want next year is a general election as they will also have to vote in an abortion referendum and possibly a presidential election.

"If you asked me six months ago if it would last, I would have said no, but things have settled down a good bit now," he said.

The proposal of a full five years of Fine Gael governing the country was extremely divisive among Fianna Fail party delegates who gathered in the RDS in Dublin this weekend for the party's Ard Fheis. Many are anxious to go to the polls and oust Fine Gael.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was extremely critical of Mr Varadkar and his government over the course of his two-day party conference.

Asked at the Ard Fheis if he would extend the deal, Mr Martin said: "We're not going there right now."

However, senior figures close to the party leader confirmed to the Sunday Independent they were prepared to sign up to a new confidence and supply arrangement after the next budget under certain terms.

Fianna Fail believes it will secure the vast majority of the terms set out in the current deal by the time the arrangement expires next year.

Fianna Fail would then go to Fine Gael with a new list of demands which would secure the passing of two more budgets for Mr Varadkar.

However, extending the deal will anger large sections of the party and raise concerns about Mr Martin's leadership.

Senior figures in the party have warned of a "growing complacency" within the party and a perception among Fianna Fail voters that TDs are "too close" to Fine Gael.

TDs are also frustrated with underpinning Fine Gael's government and getting flak from voters but getting very little in return from the Government.

There was anger at a recent parliamentary meeting among TDs over not being alerted to Government announcements in their constituency by Fine Gael.

Sunday Independent

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