Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail leader does not want to hand government ‘blank cheques’

Micheal Martin has no plans to agree an election date with the Taoiseach.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he doesn’t want to give the government blank cheques.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he doesn’t want to give the government blank cheques.

By Cate McCurry, PA

The leader of Ireland’s main opposition party said he does not want to give the government blank cheques ahead of next year’s budget.

Micheal Martin also said he was not open to agreeing to a general election date with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Speaking at the end of Fianna Fail’s pre-Dail “think in” meeting in Gorey, Co Wexford, on Tuesday, Mr Martin raised his concerns over the government’s failure to fulfil on its commitments from last year’s budget.

Mr Martin also defended his party’s deal to prop up the Fine Gael-led minority government under a confidence-and-supply arrangement, saying they will continue to do so because of Brexit uncertainty.

There are areas we have concerns about in terms of government not fulfilling commitments. Micheal Martin

“We have been very fair as an opposition party, we have taken a lot of criticism for extending confidence and supply,” he said.

“We did it on the basis of the crisis around Brexit and the possibility of a no-deal and ongoing uncertainty in London, the failure of the British parliament to pass or support the Withdrawal Agreement leading to a possible no-deal Brexit.”

He continued: “There are areas we have concerns about in terms of government not fulfilling commitments that were made in last year’s budget.

“To pick one the threshold above which local authorities have to send their projects to the Department of Environment, this was to reduce bureaucracy and get greater speed in terms of getting projects off the ground.

“The government has not delivered on that. That is just one illustration of where we continue to hold the government to account.

“There cannot be blank cheques in extended time-lines.”

While a general election is widely expected early next year, Mr Martin said that the Taoiseach can call a date for an election at any time.

The Fianna Fail leader defended his party’s efforts in holding the government to account saying it has delivered in “some areas”.

“In terms of the number of gardai now is more or less in line with confidence and supply,” he added.

“In terms of the post-graduate grant, we will see further improvement on that ensuring that working people can do post-graduate education.

“Yes, there has been failings, no doubt about that, particularly in housing, particularly in health, in climate change, but the over-arching issue for us to consider was the national interest in terms of Brexit and that remains the case.

“But that doesn’t mean that as an opposition party we will not hold the government to account.

“We will continue to highlight them and identify them, keep the pressure on the government which does get results and we have got results on a whole range of issues over the last 12 months.”

PA

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