Tuesday 16 January 2018

Varadkar extends olive branch to Fianna Fáil to shore up his minority coalition

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

John Downing, Brussels

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reached out to Fianna Fáil and pledged to do more over the coming weeks to mend relations between the two parties.

Speaking in the margins of his first EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Mr Varadkar still insisted that Fine Gael did not have to consult with Fianna Fáil about appoint judges under the two-party deal to underpin the minority coalition.

Neither did he apologise for the handling of the appointment of former Attorney General Máire Whelan as a judge in the Court of Appeals.

The way this appointment was handled has been condemned by all parties, raised concerns among Independent government ministers, and also enraged Fianna Fáil.

But the new Taoiseach did concede it was time to make some gestures to improve relations with Fianna Fáil. He promised to set up a committee sought by Fianna Fáil to review the slow delivery of promised improvements to the mental health services.

“Obviously, the week that has gone by I don’t think has been helpful for either party, but we have a written agreement. That written agreement does not require that we run appointments, either judicial appointments or public appointments, by Fianna Fail, nor could it,” the Taoiseach told reporters.

Mr Varadkar was adamant that there was no breach of the so-called “Confidence and Supply Agrement” which guarantees the minority government.

“But I do believe that over the next couple of weeks, it will be necessary for us to work closely as parties and have some confidence building moves or confidence building gestures,” Mr Varadkar said. and

“I know one of the things for example that Fianna Fail has put a real focus on is on the whole issue of mental health and their desire that we establish a committee to review the implementation of promises and commitments in relation to mental health,” Mr Varadkar added.

Mr Varadkar met with key EU leaders today ahead of Brexit talks likely to continue late tonight. He had discussions with EU Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, and EU Council President Donald Tusk.

The new Taoiseach also met German Chancellor Angela Merket and he is due to have longer discussions with her tomorrow. The two-day EU leaders’ summit will conclude on Friday afternoon.

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