Leo Varadkar trying to destabilise government, Fianna Fáil claims

Fianna Fáil's leader has accused the country’s premier of deliberately trying to destabilise the government.

It comes as Ireland’s finance minister said negotiations between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael aimed at avoiding a general election needed to be concluded within weeks to provide stability in advance of Brexit.

Paschal Donohoe said he wanted negotiations on extending the confidence supply deal, that is keeping the minority Fine Gael-led government in power, completed as soon as possible.

Yet again this week we see stories based on Fine Gael sources focused not on getting to grips with the housing and health emergencies or the cost of living crisis – but on when it suits them to force an election

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has earmarked Halloween as a potential deadline for concluding the exchanges.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told the Dáil this evening that the Taoiseach had “spent much of this year trying to create an instability which would allow him to collapse his own government”.

“Yet again this week we see stories based on Fine Gael sources focused not on getting to grips with the housing and health emergencies or the cost of living crisis – but on when it suits them to force an election,” Mr Martin said.

“We need to put these games aside and to focus on the issues at hand.”

Mr Martin said his party had been entirely honest in how it had honoured the agreement and that it had “no intention of accepting artificial deadlines” when it came to negotiating any potential agreement.

He said Fianna Fáil wanted a thorough review to take place.

“No party has a divine right to power – no matter how much time it spends praising itself,” Mr Martin said.

If the talks fail to secure an extension to the confidence-and–supply arrangement, Ireland will be facing a winter general election only months before Brexit.

The pact was struck after marathon negotiations following the inconclusive 2016 general election. It was to last three Budgets.

The third Budget was unveiled by Mr Donohoe in the Dail parliament on Tuesday.

Fielding listener calls on RTE Radio One on Wednesday morning – a post-Budget tradition– the finance minister reiterated his party’s desire for the confidence-and-supply agreement to be extended to the summer of 2020.

Mr Donohoe said: “What the Taoiseach wants to see happen is get ourselves to a point that we have stability and certainty regarding where the Dail is going to end.

“But it is important to see if we can reach agreement in relation to this soon.”

In regard to Fianna Fáil, he added: “They have said on many occasions what they want to do is play a constructive role within the Dáil. I think it is a good development that Deputy Martin contacted the Taoiseach last night.

“If we are all serious, which I believe many are, about trying to create an atmosphere of political stability to deal with challenges such as Brexit, then I think it is in the interests of all that that can be achieved,” the finance minister said.

Speaking in Leinster House prior to Mr Martin’s comments, Mr Varadkar acknowledged the “constructive and positive role” played by Fianna Fáil in its third Budget under the confidence-and-supply arrangement.

Meanwhile, at a press conference at Government Buildings, the children’s minister said she would not be surprised if there was a general election before the end of the year.

Katherine Zappone said the outcome of the Brexit negotiations at next week’s European Council summit in Brussels, and the outcome of the talks between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, would determine whether an election was called.

“What happens in relation to Brexit next week is really critical, and also what happens in relation to negotiations between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil,” Ms Zappone said a post

She added: “I’m ready whenever. I am ready. And it wouldn’t completely surprise me if it was before the end of this year. I would hope that it wasn’t.”

The Independent minister said she hoped a deal would be struck quickly between the two political parties.

- Press Association

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