Wednesday 21 November 2018

Taoiseach to meet Micheál Martin to discuss how they can 'avoid an election at this crucial time'

  • Varadkar and Martin meet next week to discuss how they can “avoid election at this crucial time”
  • Varadkar insists he doesn’t want election until summer 2020
Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin
Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin

Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar is set to meet with Fianna Fáil next week to discuss how they can “avoid an election at this crucial time”.

Responding to a letter from Micheál Martin, which urged a temporary truce between the parties, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said his priority is securing a good Brexit deal.

But he added that Fine Gael is focused on renegotiating an extension of the Confidence and Supply Agreement “until the summer of 2020”.

“The Government’s overriding priority at this point is securing a good Withdrawal Agreement in the Brexit negotiations and preventing the return of a hard border on this island. So the Government wants to avoid an election at this crucial time,” the spokesman said.

Mr Varadkar believes that the best way to guarantee that there won’t be an election “is to start talks and take them forward promptly, allowing the current arrangement to continue providing stable government until at least the summer of 2020”.

The two leaders will meet next week to discuss the political instability which has gripped the country.

The situation is now being closely watch in both London and Brussels – but the potential for a united front in Irish politics is in stark contrast to the UK.

In the letter, which was released publicly this afternoon, Mr Martin said he believed both party leaders should “state upfront” a commitment not to collapse the Government until the new year.

He said the Taoiseach should agree to allow the Finance Bill and other important legislation pass through the Dáil up until a Brexit agreement is passed by the House of Common in Britain.

It is expected this will happen in late January or early February.

Mr Martin said the public would be “rightly concerned” over the risk a general election might have during this phase of Brexit negations.

“We should both agree to continue to pass the Finance Bill and other legislation at least up to the point where, whatever is agreed by the European Council on Brexit in the coming months, has cleared the critical hurdle of ratification by the House of Commons and European Parliament,” he said.

“An election during this critical time would create a dangerous instability during a period when the Brexit could be derailed by the constant changing situation in Westminster,” he added

Mr Martin’s proposal means a general election could not be called until the new year once a Brexit deal is agreed between the EU and Britain and then voted for in the House of Commons   The final deadline for the official end of Brexit talks is March 29.

The letter from the Fianna Fáil leader to the Taoiseach comes with Mr Varadkar’s Government in chaos after one minister resigned and another was left facing a fight for survival.

Communications minister Denis Naughten, an Independent TD, did not inform the Taoiseach of his decision to stand down before making the shock announcement in the Dáil yesterday.

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