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Government formation: Varadkar says he has agreed rotating Taoiseach deal, indicating Martin will hold office first

  • Varadkar indicates that Martin will be the first to hold office of Taoiseach
  • Programme signed off by three party leaders this morning
  • Backing: FF and FG make a series of concessions to secure Greens’ support

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on his way in to Government buildings Picture; Gerry Mooney

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on his way in to Government buildings Picture; Gerry Mooney

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on his way in to Government buildings Picture; Gerry Mooney

Leo Varadkar has revealed he and Micheál Martin have agreed a date for rotating the position of Taoiseach in the new government.

Mr Varadkar gave the strongest indication to date that Mr Martin will be the first of the pair to hold the office once the programme for government is officially agreed.

“There'll be a rotating Taoiseach,” he said before adding: "We've agreed the date for that rotation to happen”.

He said details of how the office will be rotated are contained in the draft programme for government.

The Fine Gael leader’s comment came after Fianna Fáil frontbench TD Michael McGrath said he expected Mr Martin to serve as Taoiseach first. The Taoiseach said he expected a programme for government to be agreed this morning.

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The new programme for Government - click to expand and read in full

The new programme for Government - click to expand and read in full

The new programme for Government - click to expand and read in full

Mr Varadkar also revealed that the new programme for government will commit to a package of tax cuts that could be worth as much as €6bn over the next five years.

“We've got a very strong section on tax,” he said.

He said this will include a “tax shield” which will ensure there are no income or USC tax cuts in the next budget.

“And after that it'll be linked to increased earnings so a tax package that could be worth as much as €6billion over the course of the next government in terms of income tax and USC,” he added.

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He said the three parties involved in negotiations also agreed to reduce the country’s deficit each year once the economy returns to growth.

He said the state pension age will be deferred pending the outcome of a commission on pensions.

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin arrives at Government Buildings in Dublin. photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin arrives at Government Buildings in Dublin. photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin arrives at Government Buildings in Dublin. photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Varadkar also said the National Broadband Plan may be accelerated by the new government.

He also said there will be a new care deal which will seek to address the needs of all peoplefrom the “cradle to the grave”.

It comes as a Green revolution is set to transform Irish politics after more than a month of high-stakes government talks delivered a series of massive ‘wins’ for Eamon Ryan’s party.

The two Civil War parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, are on the brink of forming a historic coalition after making a series of concessions to secure the Green Party’s support.

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Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD arrives at Government Buildings on Merrion Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD arrives at Government Buildings on Merrion Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD arrives at Government Buildings on Merrion Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

Negotiating teams from all three parties broke up in the early hours of yesterday morning after finishing a draft programme for government to be considered by their party leaders - this was agreed upon early this afternoon.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael and Mr Ryan met last night to thrash out outstanding issues such as the State pension age, plans for income tax and USC, and future increases in carbon tax.

But Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have agreed to the Green Party’s red-line demand that carbon emissions be cut by an average of 7pc a year.

A 2:1 split on public transport spending over new roads infrastructure is also part of the deal, as is a commitment to end offshore oil and gas exploration.

The position of the party's deputy leader Catherine Martin - who is challenging Mr Ryan for his job - will be closely watched as a signal of whether the Greens' wider membership will approve the deal.

Her supporters in the looming leadership battle have been among the most vocal sceptics of entering government with the two larger parties.

Ms Martin - who had been opposed to entering talks with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - was silent last night, though sources involved in the negotiations believe she will back an agreed deal.

A Fianna Fáil source said Ms Martin had "given no indication" she is not on board, while a senior Fine Gael figure said it would be hard for her not to back it because she had been at "all the meetings where the agreement was reached".

A Green source said Ms Martin worked "incredibly hard" on the draft programme and had been "part of every call we've made during this process".

TDs and senators from all three parties are to examine the fine details of the proposed coalition today before their wider memberships are consulted.

The Green Party source insisted the deal represented "a strong programme for government".

They added: "It contains very significant Green Party policy wins across a wide range of areas - environmental, social, housing and equality.

"I believe our members will see the real progress that can be achieved over the next five years and I think they'll support it."

Five-year 'Carbon Budgets' setting out greenhouse gas emission cuts for every sector are to feature as part of the battle against climate change.

Other environmental initiatives like funding of €360m a year for walking and cycling, as well as a ban on single-use plastics have been agreed.

The party's demand for carbon tax increases to €100 a tonne over the next decade is understood to have been among the issues still being considered by the party leaders last night and which failed to result in an agreement last night.

The Green negotiators were said to be particularly happy at securing a commitment to end direct provision for asylum seekers and develop a new system with an alternative accommodation model and a faster application process.

A senior Fianna Fáil source hailed measures to ramp up the supply of affordable housing as areas of the deal influenced by the party. They said: "It's been a very long process. Our members are nervous about it, but I think we have a good deal.

"There's a lot of work to be done over the next few weeks to sell it and we'll be selling it hard to our members."

Fine Gael pointed to plans for a new 'cradle to grave' care deal that would see increased State support for childcare, enhanced parental benefits and a statutory system of home-help for the elderly as key issues it was pushing for.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the plans in the draft document were "good for the country" and he was "confident the three parties will be able to sell it" to their membership and the public.

Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sought to take credit for plans for a major jobs and stimulus package aimed at helping the hospitality industry and small businesses worst hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic is said to dominate much of the programme, particularly in the areas of health and education.

Among the other issues being thrashed out by the party leaders last night was Fianna Fáil's bid to delay the rise in the pension age to 67 next year pending a review.

They were also understood to have discussed plans for income taxes and USC amid Fine Gael's demand that there be no increases and the possibility of cuts once the economy recovers.

Mr Martin, Mr Varadkar and Mr Ryan were also set to hold discussions on how the coalition will work.

This would include how many cabinet posts each party would have as well as communications in government between the parties.

A Fianna Fáil source said this revolved around "how issues are resolved before they become problems". They said the expectation in the party was that Mr Martin would take the first stint as Taoiseach.

Mr Martin was tight-lipped on the matter when he spoke to reporters as he arrived at Government Buildings for the talks, merely saying that the first Taoiseach in the coalition would be revealed "in due course".

RTÉ reported that he said the proposed deal "can represent a new departure for Irish society". Mr Ryan said a deal had to be struck last night due to the "tight timelines" for consulting with the three parties, although it is now expected to be this morning.


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