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Parties turn to grassroots members to back government deal

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party will spend the next 10 days persuading their respective memberships to back their plan to form a coalition.

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Deputy PM Simon Coveney said Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party will spend the next 10 days persuading their respective memberships to back a deal to form a new coalition government (Brian Lawless/PA)

Deputy PM Simon Coveney said Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party will spend the next 10 days persuading their respective memberships to back a deal to form a new coalition government (Brian Lawless/PA)

Deputy PM Simon Coveney said Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party will spend the next 10 days persuading their respective memberships to back a deal to form a new coalition government (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party will spend the next 10 days persuading their respective memberships to back a deal to form a new coalition government, Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney has said.

On Monday their parliamentary parties endorsed the programme for government.

While most Green Party TDs supported the blueprint, including deputy leader Catherine Martin, three TDs abstained.

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(L to R) Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (PA)

(L to R) Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (PA)

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(L to R) Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (PA)

The three leaders, Leo Varadkar, Micheal Martin and Eamon Ryan, finalised the deal to form a coalition government on Monday, more than four months on from February’s inconclusive general election.

The deal, which came after almost two months of negotiations between the parties, will now be put to their respective memberships for approval.

Mr Coveney said that while the parties faced a “competitive general election”, they now have a “new template” for government.

“We have three parties who want to work together at a senior level and we have to spend the next 10 or 11 days now persuading our membership that it’s the right thing for the country,” he told RTE Morning Ireland.

“I think, when people read this document, they’ll get a lot of reassurance that this is a template to get the country back to work.

“This is a government that will manage the public finances in a responsible way, but certainly learned the lessons from the last recession that we had to get out of.

“They’ll see a lot of new ambition and new thinking, particularly in the areas of of climate and health reform and housing that I think can instil hope and optimism for many people who need the Government to perform for them.”

Mr Coveney said Government has learned “real lessons” over the impact of Covid-19 on Ireland’s health system.

He added that the country responded to the challenge “successfully” and can do it again.

The parties have committed to reducing carbon emissions by an average of 7% annually over the next 10 years.

Mr Coveney said it will take time to implement the country’s climate action plan.

“Of course we’ve got to put the building blocks and foundations in place to make that dramatic change – you can’t do it overnight – and so this is a programme for government that explains how we’re going to do that across multiple sectors,” he added.

“I think anybody who reads the agricultural section in this proposed programme for government as a farmer need not worry because we are going to help farming to change, to protect biodiversity and to deliver in terms of climate action.

“We’re going to do it in a supportive way that maintains commercial farming and family farming and ensures that the Government and the EU are supporting farmers in the changes that they need to make.”

Now that the deal has been agreed, it needs to be ratified by grassroots members from each party – however, each party has different rules.

The Green Party requires two-thirds support from its 2,700 members – a higher amount than the other parties, which means a deal could yet be scuppered as some grassroots Green Party members have expressed concerns about going into a coalition with two large centre-right parties.

Fianna Fail needs a simple majority of its more than 15,000 members. Some have expressed concern about going into government with Fine Gael for the first time but the party’s members are expected to pass the deal.

Fine Gael has an electoral college system which gives greater weight to its TDs, senators and councillors than the party membership.

If the deal is passed by the various memberships, it is expected that a new government will be in place for the end of June or the first week of July.

PA