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Dissent in ranks after Fine Gael agrees coalition deal in Republic of Ireland


Meeting: Micheal Martin

Meeting: Micheal Martin

Meeting: Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be forced to cull up to seven Fine Gael minsters as part of his deal to form a government with Fianna Fail.

Mr Varadkar’s key allies including Eoghan Murphy, Richard Bruton, Joe McHugh and Josepha Madigan are facing demotion under the deal.

But Simon Coveney, Paschal Donohoe and Heather Humphreys are expected to remain in the new Cabinet.

Given his role in the response to the Covid-19 emergency, Health Minister Simon Harris is expected to survive despite his well-publicised differences with Mr Varadkar over the Fine Gael leadership race in 2017.

And EU Minister Helen McEntee is being tipped by her colleagues for promotion, possibly at the expense of Ms Madigan.

Meanwhile, it has emerged senior Fine Gael ministers still have reservations about entering into government with Fianna Fail.

Yesterday every councillor in Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring’s Mayo constituency unanimously told the party they opposed the deal.

During a conference call with European Affairs Minister McEntee, 10 Mayo councillors said they will not support the deal with Fianna Fail.

Mr Ring, who is the only Fine Gael candidate to top the poll in the general election, is understood to have expressed doubts about the agreement in his constituency. Mayo sources said he was not involved in the decision of councillors to oppose the deal.

Local Government Minister John Paul Phelan, who was central to Mr Varadkar’s leadership contest, has also privately told colleagues he does not believe the deal is in the best interests of the party.

Senior Fine Gael sources say Eoghan Murphy, Michael Creed and even Richard Bruton have all privately cast doubt over whether the party should end the Civil War divide and enter into an arrangement with Fianna Fail.

Some in Fine Gael believe they should not be responsible for forming the next government, as they came third in the general election. They also believe a second election should be called once the Covid-19 outbreak is addressed by the caretaker government.

However, following a meeting yesterday, Mr Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin officially signed off on a policy framework document which will pave the way towards the formation of a ‘grand coalition’ with a third party which will govern for the next five years.

It was agreed that the policy framework document will be the basis for a programme for government.

If a deal is reached with a third party, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will have between five and six senior Cabinet positions to fill and possibly one super junior position each.

However, this will depend on the size of the smaller party that joins them in coalition and the number of independent TDs involved in the arrangement.

A number of members of the Regional Technical Group are keen on senior ministerial roles in return for their support.

Denis Naughten, Sean Canney and Aontu leader Peader Toibin are all expected to seek Cabinet roles in return for their support of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

A Fine Gael Cabinet minister said Mr Varadkar will have “very tough” choices to make if it gets to the stage of assigning ministries.

“The decisions get tougher with independents coming in on top of a third party,” a source said.

Last night Green Party TDs said they will consider the proposals put forward by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail — but stopped short of saying they would enter negotiations.

The policy document which has been developed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail negotiating teams will be sent to their parliamentary parties today.

Belfast Telegraph