Micheál Martin coy on Taoiseach role in FG-FF coalition Government

Micheál Martin coy on Taoiseach role in FG-FF coalition Government
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (left) and Fine Gael leader, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

An “equal partnership” between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is what’s on the table, which “must involve parity of esteem,” according to Fianna Fáil leader and Cork South Central TD Micheál Martin.

However, Deputy Martin refused to be drawn on whether he would be the next Taoiseach or whether the role would be shared equally between himself and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar.

“The first fundamental is getting the policy development right and getting the programme for Government together and then we can borach the wider issues then in terms of Ministers closer to the time,” Deputy Martin told The Echo.

“We produced the document yesterday which is principles-based and which hopefully, if we can get other parties engaged and we’ve also been in touch with the independent groups as well, the idea would be then that you could formally have a programme for government,” he added.

The document in question sets out ten “missions” for a new Government. Among the principals outlined in the document are universal healthcare, housing for all and a new green deal.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are hopeful they could entice one or more of the Social Democrats, the Labour Party or the Green Party into a coalition to form a majority Government.

Party sources have said that the Green Party, with their 12 seats would be the preferred partner. Micheál Martin, meanwhile, remained coy but said that climate change is something he wanted to see addressed.

“Obviously we’re looking for sufficient numbers in terms of forming a Government. We believe we have complimentary policies with the Green Party, the Social Democrats and with the Labour Party,” Deputy Martin said.

“I would always be of the view that in addition to housing and health, the climate change agenda is one that we have to address.

“I think this (Covid-19) crisis gives us the opportunity to, once we get through the emergency, deal with a new way of organising society, in terms of healthcare, housing, and particularly climate,” he added.

Despite party rules, an Árd Fheis won’t be held in the current circumstances for party members to vote on a proposed coalition deal, but the Fianna Fáil leader promised to “engage in widespread consultation with members across the county, with elected representatives and membership on the ground” on the issue.

On any disquiet among Fianna Fáil members on entering Government with Fine Gael, Deputy Martin said: “I think most of the public believe that a government should be formed. I believe we have an obligation to work to form a Government, notwithstanding the difficulties.

“I think a lot of people (within the party) accept the need to get a Government formed that could command a majority and that could make decisions in the best interests of the Irish people.” 

Sinn Féin TD, and Deputy Martin’s constituency colleague, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, however, claims the document from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is “an attempt to cod people.” 

“I think they are underestimating people significantly if they think that trying to sell, of all things, a Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael coalition as a new direction. In fact, it is a double helping of the same old same old, I think people will see that,” Deputy Ó Laoghaire said.

“Delivering the change that people voted for means delivering the biggest house building programme in the history of the State, it means being able to see a doctor when you are sick, it means delivering truly affordable childcare, it means setting out proper climate change targets and it means ensuring that workers can avail of a State pension at 65.

“None of this features in any detail,” he added.

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