Leo Varadkar has said any junior partner in a Fianna Fail/Fine Gael coalition will have a role in deciding how the position of Taoiseach is allocated.
Mr Varadkar said he and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin believed it was important that they did not agree a plan for rotating the office ahead of talks with the parties they hope will join them in government.
The leaders are courting the Social Democrats, Labour, Greens and various independent TDs to try to secure the numbers to form a stable administration in the wake of February’s inconclusive election.
“What we have agreed between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is that it is going to be an equal partnership between the two parties in every sense of that meaning,” Mr Varadkar told RTE’s Prime Time.
“However, when it comes to deciding how the Taoiseach will be rotated and who gets what cabinet folios and all those other things we decided between the two of us that was something that we should have as part of the talks with the leaders of the other parties.
“We didn’t want to present a fait accompli and say ‘here it is, will you sign up to our deal?’.
“We want that to be part of a discussion that we’re having with the parties.”
If I have the privilege of serving another government, I'd accept that privilege, but I know going into government now is not for the faint-heartedLeo Varadkar
When asked whether he had a preference for taking the role of Taoiseach first or second, Mr Varadkar replied: “I know if it sounds like a line but it really is true – it so isn’t about me.
“I’ll do this job to the best of my ability for as long as I hold it. If I have the privilege of serving another government, I’d accept that privilege, but I know going into government now is not for the faint-hearted.
“Things look very different now than they did at the time of the general election. It’s going to be endless effort. There’s going to be constant criticism, there’s going to be a lot of disappointment. Whoever goes into government is going to be unpopular. So that’s the time when you need the kind of people that are willing to do that.
“And I hope that the Greens, Social Democrats, Labour and some of these independent groups are up for this because the country, more so than ever, needs a stable government that can bring us through this.”
Mr Varadkar was challenged on the content of the Fianna Fail/Fine Gael joint framework document for government amid criticism that it contains very ambitious goals with little detail on how to achieve them.
The Taoiseach moved to give detail on one of the commitments, around housing, saying he believed building between 10-12,000 social homes a year was realistic over five years.
He added: “The document is aspirational, and it’s not a bad thing I don’t think to be aspirational by the way.”
Earlier, the Finance Minister said the next government will be pre-occupied with getting the country’s economy back on track as it deals with the fallout of Covid-19.
Paschal Donohoe said Ireland is entering a severe recession and facing increased unemployment.
He said Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin would hold individual meetings with other party leaders this week in an effort to convince a third party into a coalition with them.
Mr Donohoe said no matter who becomes the third party to prop up the coalition, tackling the Covid-19 pandemic will take precedence.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a severe recession both domestically and globally, he said.
“In the space of 12 weeks our jobs market has gone from almost full employment to a scale of unprecedented unemployment that has risen with a speed and scale that is unprecedented.”
Mr Donohoe said the Department of Finance fiscal projections suggest Ireland will run a deficit of 23 billion euros this year and GDP will fall by 10.5%.
“The early phase of any new government will be concerned with the economy and getting people back to work,” he said.
“We will not be able to do everything, choices will have to be made regarding economic recovery, reducing deficit and meeting expenditure needs. Changes we have made in our health service will be retained, we need to maintain public confidence in health services.”
He said Ireland is in a position of strength as it seeks to rebuild the economy after the coronavirus emergency.
“We will rebuild our economy again. As with the recovery of our public health, it will require focus.”