Disagreements remain in government formation talks

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Government formation talks have hit a wall over greenhouse gas emissions and transport spending among issues, with a deadline for a deal now expected to fall back even further.

Negotiators have confirmed outstanding disagreements among Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Greens over pensions, welfare spending and housing issues all are also slowing down the talks with many issues being sent back for party leaders to decide.

The Greens are particularly critical of Fine Gael's continued refusal to compromise while Fianna Fail have privately admitted the Friday deadline this week for a draft deal report now looks out of reach.

This is despite negotiators meeting last night over agreeing final texts on education, tourism, sport and some areas of welfare.

However, a looming deadline to extend the Offences Against the State Act, to keep the special criminal court in operation, may focus minds.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told his Fine Gael party last night that, in the absence of a government deal by the end of June, that some sort of cross-party agreement may be needed to ensure the Seanad is filled with 11 nominees so the relevant legislation for the court is renewed.

Furthermore, this weekend also marks the deadline for nominations for the Green Party leadership contest, with deputy party leader Catherine Martin still to decide if she will challenge Eamon Ryan for the position of leader.

These issues, plus the stalled talks, are adding to pressure, say sources.

Junior public expenditure minister Patrick Donovan also warned, during a Fine Gael private meeting last night, that there was a “dishonest” narrative going around about the Greens demand to reduce carbon emissions by 7% and that this would not just be “hunky dorey”.

He warned that Fine Gael could be party to the economy turning from “a recession into a depression” and that that Mr Varadkar and negotiators needed to be careful Tuesday’s talks on the climate emergency continued to fall down around major differences of opinion in changes to transport and commercial agriculture.

Green Party sources say they feel they are consistently asked to come up with policies on how to tackle the issue of emissions, which are often rejected by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who offer little of their own suggestions on the topic. 

Without serious changes to road building and “big Ag”, the Green Party feel it will be difficult to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Some Green TDs are frustrated at the lack of input from the civil war parties on the issue “considering the resources they have at their disposal in comparison to ours”. 

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar told his party meeting last night that he “was confident” the country would be able to move into Phase 2 of the roadmap to ease restrictions in the Covid-19 battle next Monday.

A final decision will be made by Cabinet this Friday.

He said a decision regarding how long to extend the pandemic payments will be made towards the end of the week.

Regarding Government formation talks, Mr Varadkar said if they are to be successful, it may be sometime next week before talks are finalised. He said any Programme for Government had to reflect Fine Gael policies, values and be attractive to the party’s support base.