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Varadkar faces calls to protect roads in talks with Greens


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faced calls from his party members to protect major road infrastructure projects in government negotiations with the Green Party.

During a teleconference call with the Taoiseach, Fine Gael TDs and senators insisted that key infrastructure projects must be ring-fenced when official talks with the Green and Fianna Fáil begin.

Senior party figures also raised concerns about the impact of Green Party policies on the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government Chief Whip Sean Kyne said the development of the Galway City Ring Road and Moycullen bypass must be protected from Green demands to cut Government spending on roads.

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan and Limerick City TD Kieran O’Donnell raised concerns about the Foynes to Limerick road and Adare bypass. Mr O’Donovan also questioned whether a major natural gas pipeline planned for Limerick would be abandoned.

The Green Party is insisting on 2:1 split in favour of spending on roads over public transport as a condition of entering into negotiations.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed objected to the lack of consultation within the party before Fine Gael’s committed to reducing carbon emissions by 7pc per year on average over the next decade.

Sources at the meeting said Mr Creed was critical of Green polices and “went through each of them and tore them apart”. The Agriculture Minister said he did not believe it was possible to achieve a 7pc per year reduction in emissions without reducing the national herd, according to a source.

“He is very concerned about the impact of the emissions target on farming and sought clarification about how this was agreed and when,” a source said.

Mr Kyne also raised the lack of consultation with party members before the significant policy shift.

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Local Government Minister of State John Paul Phelan said the Green’s demands were “contrary to the national interest” when trying to restore the economy after the coronavirus crisis. Mr Phelan also raised the impact of the Green agenda on farmers and rural communities.

Wexford senator Michael D’Arcy insisted going into government was no in the best interests of the party. He said the party did not win the election and were under no obligation to form the next government.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the meeting he believes a new government will be in place next month.

In a statement after the meeting Fine Gale Parliamentary chairperson Martin Heydon said: “Fianna Fáil and the Greens, due to begin on Thursday, would be successful, and a Government formed that would last four to five years.”

“A significant number of party TD’s and senators sought reassurances that Fine Gael core values and policy’s would be reflected in an agreed Programme for Government,” he added.

Sources said the Taoiseach committed to more parliamentary party meetings to formulate the Fine Gael position during the talks.

Mr Varadkar held talks with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Ryan said he hoped to have an agreement on the programme for government by the end of the month.

Mr Ryan also revealed the commitments he received from Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar on reducing emissions by 7pc per year on average over the next 10 years.

The clarification from the two leaders said: “We are happy to confirm that a new government comprising our three parties will commit to developing measures to achieve an average 7pc per annum reduction in annual emissions for the next decade.”

They said they “fully accept” reducing emissions will provide better air quality and better quality of life.

“It will create jobs and allow for economic opportunities to develop across Ireland as a result of deep retrofitting, renewable energy, peat lands management and green technology,” they added.

They said it is important they work with the agriculture sector and rural communities to achieve this goal and ensure there is a just transition built into the process.

“We will of course seek to improve farmer incomes and protect the family farm mode as part of the European Green Deal and a revised Common Agriculture Policy,” they added.

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