The leaders of Fianna Fail, the Green Party and Fine Gael have expressed confidence that they will on Sunday sign off on the draft agreement of a programme for government.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said that if the programme for government is signed off later, it will represent a new departure for Irish society.
The leaders of the three parties are at Government buildings to formally agree a draft programme for government and to discuss outstanding issues.
Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar went into Government buildings without a word for the press.— Ãine McMahon (@AineMcMahon) June 14, 2020
Thankfully the rain has started to ease off. pic.twitter.com/XRFS696Wf9
Speaking on his way into Government buildings, Mr Martin said that although there are outstanding issues to be resolved, he is hopeful a deal can be signed off on Sunday.
He said: “I think we can move this forward and it can represent a new departure for Irish society.
“It will bring transformative change to how we do things and prepare the country well for the next decade and prepare us for the economic situation that Covid-19 has created – that will take centre stage.”
Asked if the deal would be signed off on Sunday evening, he said: “That would be our intention, yes.
“If a programme for government is finally agreed, it will go to our parliamentary party first and then there will be a vote by the membership.”
Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar did not speak to the press on his way into the meeting.
Deputy Fine Gael leader Simon Coveney said the draft coalition government deal is “good for the country”.
Speaking on the way into the talks, Mr Coveney, leader of the Fine Gael negotiating team, described the text as “good for the country”.
“We did a lot of good work last night and we effectively have a text for a government with a need for the leaders to finalise a very small number of issues,” he said.
“Negotiating teams have done their job. I think the text that will be going to the leaders today is good for the country and I hope and I am confident that the three leaders will be able to sell it within their parties and to the public.”
Negotiators from the parties met until the early hours of the morning.
The three negotiating teams agreed most of a programme for government this morning. A small number of issues have been left to the party leaders to decide later today. A lot of good stuff in there!— Ossian Smyth TD (@smytho) June 14, 2020
Green Party TD Ossian Smyth, who is part of his party’s negotiating team, tweeted at 4.30am on Sunday: “The three negotiating teams agreed most of a programme for government this morning.
“A small number of issues have been left to the party leaders to decide later today. A lot of good stuff in there!”
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said a coalition government deal “needs to be done today”
He said: “It does have to be done today because we are on a tight timeline. All of our parties have rules involving our members. With the pandemic, we have to send out postal ballots so our members can vote and that takes time.”
“We are conscious that laws around the Special Criminal Court have to be looked at at the end of June.
“There is also an economic imperative to try and get the recovery going with a government that has a mandate to do that.”
Health Minister and Fine Gael TD Simon Harris said the public are eager for a government to be in place soon and he is hoping for a breakthrough.
“I think there is a clear expectation that this agreement can be brought to finality.
“It has been a long few, intense weeks of negotiations – 127 days since the general election,” he told RTE’s Week In Politics Programme.
“I think it is reaching a point where we need to get on with it and the public need a government.”
The programme for government could run to more than 100 pages and the details will be worked out by party leaders on Sunday.
It will then have to be put to the membership of each of the three parties for consideration.
Mr Varadkar said on Friday that he thinks a government could be in place by the end of June or early July if members accept the deal.
Issues remaining include those around the pension age, Occupied Territories Bill, pensions, a ban on fracked gas imports, income tax cuts and carbon tax proposals.
A Green Party source said a ban on fracked gas imports would likely see deputy leader Catherine Martin backing the deal, which could help to persuade two-thirds of its party members to approve the agreement.
The Green Party has the highest bar as their rules say two-thirds of their 2,700 members must support the deal.