Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail agrees to keep Varadkar's government in power

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin

By Aoife Moore

The Republic's main opposition party has been criticised after it announced it would extend a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Irish Government for another year.

It was announced yesterday after weeks of discussion that the Fine Gael government would continue with the support of the country's second biggest party, Fianna Fail, until 2020 due to Brexit's impact on Ireland.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said his party had reached the decision reluctantly, but he said it was "unavoidable" given the concerns posed by Brexit.

He said: "With business and communities already fearful about the impact of Brexit and with Ireland manifestly not ready for many of the potential outcomes, how could it possibly be in the national interest to have extended political uncertainty next year?

"This is why Fianna Fail will extend a guarantee that government will be able to operate throughout 2019."

Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney hailed the "maturity" of opposition leader Mr Martin and said the deal ensures "certainty for at least another year, probably more".

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald labelled the negotiations as "political theatre" and said it was "astonishing that Fianna Fail have agreed to keep Fine Gael in government for another year without achieving one additional thing".

"They seem happy to have more of the same, the same failures. All the things Micheal Martin apparently had a problem with, apparently now he has no problem with," she said.

"The truth is you can't be in government and opposition at the same time. It is clear he (Martin) has full confidence in Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach, and will have achieved nothing by way of additionality, and will ensure government continues on."

After the 2016 general election, Fianna Fail agreed to support Fine Gael in power for three budgets, by committing to not bring down the government or vote against key votes.

However it remains unclear whether Fianna Fail received any new commitments from the government for extension. Mr Martin said that there was "disagreement on issues of delivery" but they would continue to keep the government under pressure.

There is no new document or agreement; the current document in relation to confidence and supply is still in use.

Similarly, Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin was quick to criticise Fianna Fail for entering into an extended agreement.

"The six weeks of the labours of Hercules have produced exactly nothing," he said. "Apparently there is to be a deal with no consequences, no requirements.

"All the analysis about the failures in housing and health are meaningless because there is no new target to be set, conditions to be met."

The Irish Government has come under criticism domestically for the ongoing homeless crisis, lack of affordable housing, hospital waiting lists and what political opponents call "rising inequality".

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