Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Greens on brink of deal for forming government in Ireland

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (centre) arrives at government buildings in Dublin to discuss outs

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (centre) arrives at government buildings in Dublin to discuss outstanding issues, as leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party are set to formally agree a draft programme for government between their parties later. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The leaders of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party are expected to formally sign off on a draft programme for government between their parties.

The parties were edging towards agreement on forming a coalition government for the next five years, having overcome hurdles in the negotiations that have gone on for almost two months.

There are still outstanding issues between the parties that need to be resolved.

Fianna Fail has insisted that the pension age should not be increased to 67 until next year while Fine Gael has said taxes should not be increased for workers as the country faces a deep recession.

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.

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The Green Party has the highest bar as their rules state that two thirds of their 2,700 members must support the deal.

Speaking ahead of their meeting, party leaders expressed confidence that they would sign off on the draft agreement of a programme for government.

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said that if the programme for government was signed off later, it would represent a new departure for Irish society.

Speaking on his way into government buildings, 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 by the end of Sunday, 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.'

It is expected that Martin would become taoiseach for the first half of the new government's term but he refused to be drawn about it.

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 was 'good for the country'.

Coveney, leader of the Fine Gael negotiating team, said: '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.

'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 Sunday morning to agree what would go into the programme for government before it was presented to leaders this afternoon.

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.'

The programme for government could run to more than 100 pages. If agreed, it will then have to be put to the membership of each of the three parties for consideration.

If members pass it, a government could be in place for the end of June or early July.

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