After four months of negotiation, a proposed Programme for Government between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party could give the 26 County state the largest right-wing government it has seen for decades.
The draft plan for a five-year coalition government being circulated by Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar (left), Green party leader Eamon Ryan (centre) and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (right) could finally bring together the parties arising from both sides of the civil war, propped up in power by the Greens.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil or their predecessors have alternated in government in Dublin since the 1920s. After a dire performance in the 26 County general election in February, when Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party, they now need the support of a left-leaning party to form a new government between them.
The parliamentary parties of all three parties are due to hold online meetings this evening the ratify the deal ahead of votes of the party memberships.
Fianna Fáil have said they expect Micheál Martin will be the next Taoiseach as part of a rotation of the position between the parties.
A lot now depends on the membership of the Green Party. Many of them will recall that their disastrous support for the Fianna Fáil-led government during the financial crisis of 2008 plunged the state into receivership at the hands of the International Monetary Fund, and almost wiped out the Green Party itself.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the deal is “not the change that people voted for” and warned Green party members were being asked to endorse a plan that would do “significant damage to the environmental movement”.
Mr Doherty said his party would “wait and see” as to how the membership of each party votes, but that Sinn Féin will seek to form a government again if it does not pass.
“These parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil specifically, cannot be trusted. They created many of the major challenges we have in terms of health and housing. Regardless of what party props them up, these two parties will not change. So it is over to the membership now. They have seen what these parties have failed to deliver despite all their flowery language and I think it would be naive in the extreme to think they will change into what the public wanted.”
Mr Doherty said many within the Green Party would have seen the “huge mandate for change” in February’s General Election and “recognise that this is not it.
“People know that it is in the DNA of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to protect the developer, landlord, speculator, the insurance industry and we have countless examples of that.”
He said that if the deal passes, Sinn Féin will “use the mandate we have to force the changes that are needed.”
Tánaiste and Fine Gael lead negotiator Simon Coveney said the draft coalition government deal followed “a lot of good work”.
“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.”
If the deal fails to get past the memberships, Sinn Féin will renew contacts with other like-minded parties, Mr Doherty said.
“We have stayed in contact with everyone including in fairness the Green Party who never excluded us. We want to lead the next government, deal with the climate emergency, and reduce the pension age, all of these things.
“I have huge respect for the Green Party and I believe that of course they know they are going in with two centre-right parties, parties who together have created the housing crisis. The under-investment in health did not fall from the sky.”
“The crises that we have in our society aren’t acts of god, they are man-made. The Greens know the consequences of government and the alternatives. It is up to them to decide what is in their interests and what is in the interests of the people who elected them. If this deal goes ahead, it will be the largest centre-right Government in recent times.”
Rise TD for Dublin South West Paul Murphy said that “if the Greens’ membership endorses this deal, they will do significant damage to the environmental movement, allowing themselves to be used as a green mudguard for austerity. That is epitomised by the carbon tax, which will not even be a ‘cap and dividend’ model previously advocated by the Greens, with rebates for lower income families. Instead, it will be a straightforward austerity tax.”