Varadkar ups pressure on Greens and others to enter government talks

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: Steve Humphreys

Hugh O'Connell

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has put pressure on the Greens, Independents and small parties, to enter government formation talks.

Mr Varadkar said that a new government will need to last for the next four years and have “a stable working majority”.

He said it is possible to form a Government in “the next couple of weeks” but that it would need to be an administration that involves not just Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

“I think we need a government that's going to last, that will last till 2024 and 2025. It's going to need a working majority, and that means it's going to require more than Fianna Fail and Fine Gael,” Mr Varadkar said at a press conference in Government Buildings.

“Between the two parties, we only have 72 seats. I think for a stable working majority, you're going to need 82 to 85. So that means having at least 10 more TDs who are willing to come on board, take the whip, stay the course, be willing to make the tough decisions as well as the popular ones for the next four years.

“And we're not there yet, but we continue to negotiate with Fianna Fáil. There are discussions happening today and we hope to the point where we can then approach other parties to see if they're willing to form part of that new government.”

Mr Varadkar acknowledged there is a “real concern” that the Oireachtas won’t be able to pass legislation the week after next as the new Seanad will not not be fully-formed without nominees from a newly-elected Taoiseach.

He said it would be “preferable to have a properly constituted Seanad in two weeks’ time.”

On legislation that may be needed, he said: “There's nothing, if you like, on the books that we're not doing this week, but something may come up, and that's that's the concern - and it’s a real one.”

Mr Varadkar said there are no plans for an emergency budget - but this may change later in the year.

“When the emergency is over we'll know what the bill is and also, we'll know what we need to do to stimulate the economy and we’ll know the financial power needed to do that,” he said.

The Fine Gael leader also rejected the characterisation of yesterday’s announcement that private hospitals would be used to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic as the Government creating a single-tier health service.

“I don’t think we should exaggerate what has been done,” he said.

“We’ve created a single-tier health service for the purpose of treating Covid-19. That is’t the case across the board for treating all illnesses.

“People attending their GP today with let's say chest pain or somebody going to the local minor injuries unit with a sprained ankle will still either have a medical card or not have a medical card. So what we've done is we've created a single tier health service for the purposes of treating Covid-19.

“We did that only a year ago in relation to abortion services where there is no charge and it’s part of a universal health system. We've done relation to the mother and baby scheme and women's health for a very long time.

“This isn’t something that has happened across the board, it’s happened for a period of time for a particular illness.”

Mr Varadkar also said parents will not be expected to pay crèche fees during the emergency for childcare they are not receiving, but that stressed that while childcare costs remain too high this is a temporary measure.

“I think most parents would acknowledge that if they are receiving a service such as child care that they should make a contribution towards that,” he said.