Government formation talks officially began this week, with Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party agreeing a framework for formal negotiations early in the week and with official talks starting on Thursday. It is expected that the negotiating teams from the three parties will be meeting regularly, with talks set to continue for a number weeks.
Despite initially objecting to entering into talks with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, deputy leader of the Green Party, Catherine Martin, will lead the party’s negotiating team. Also on the Green Party negotiating team will be Ossian Smyth, Roderic O’Gorman, Neasa Hourgian and Marc Ó Cathasaigh. Fine Gael has been led so far by a negotiating team compromising of Simon Coveney, Paschal Donohoe, Hildegarde Naughton and Heather Humphreys. While the Fianna Fail team is made up of Dara Calleary, Anne Rabbitte, Michael McGrath, Barry Cowen, Darragh O’Brien and Thomas Byrne.
During a Fine Gael Parliamentary Party teleconference meeting this week, Leo Varadkar said he was determined that the talks between his own party, Fianna Fáil and the Greens would be successful. He said he also expects that the government that will be formed would last four to five years.
There is also the added pressure of the need for the Houses of the Oireachtas to formally approve legislation to give effect to some €4bn in supports and loans for small businesses and firms hit by the virus. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed at the weekend that a new government would need to be in place so the Seanad and parliamentary approval could be given to those new laws.
Although the Seanad election has been completed, 11 Senators must be chosen by the new Taoiseach and there have been concerns that legislation could not be passed without a full complement of senators in place. The Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl wrote about his concerns in a letter where he said based on legal advice “it is not possible for the current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD to make the eleven nominations”.
A major stumbling block for the Green Party, and for Fianna Fáil, will be addressing the concerns and opposition to deals from grassroots and ordinary members, with both parties likely to have to hold conferences in order for any final government agreement to be approved. All of the parties require approval from their respective party memberships in order to enter government. However, the bar is highest in the Greens where a two-thirds majority is required to endorse a programme for government.