Micheál Martin claims he has acted in the national interest, but his renewal of the confidence and supply deal serves his party well in avoiding a general election. The 12-month deal will realistically be an 18-month deal, as no election is likely before May 2019. At a time when economic chaos arising from a no-deal Brexit is a real possibility, it is a decision which possibly serves the national interest.
The agreement has kept the minority Government in power since May 2016. It has seen Fianna Fáil facilitate the passage of three Budgets by the minority administration, as was initially envisaged. However, talks began in October to extend the agreement between Fianna Fáil and the Fine-Gael led Government.
Mr Martin told the Dáil on Wednessday afternoon, that business as usual was not an option and there must be an ability to put the national interest above party interest. He said Ireland was in a period of heightened danger over fears created by a potential hard-Brexit and the risk of a no-deal scenario had risen dramatically. Mr Martin told the Dáil that the political chaos seen in London should not be allowed spread to Dublin. He said that in normal times, an election now would be the right thing for the country, but in these circumstances, he explained: "However, these are not normal times and Ireland is immediately confronted with one of the biggest threats for many decades." Addressing the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the Fianna Fáil leader had made the right decision. He also drew comparison between events in the UK and what had played out in Ireland the very same day.
Tanáiste Simon Coveney thanked Fianna Fáil and Mr Martin for renewing the agreement, saying that the decision showed maturity. Speaking to media outlets on Wednesday night, Coveney said he expected the extension of the agreement to go "well into 2020". It is understood that May 2020 is the preferred timing of the next general election amongst most of our parliamentarians. Tanaiste Coveney said they had reviewed the existing agreement "very thoroughly" and explained that the document continued to be the basis for the agreement. He said Fianna Fáil had produced a number of pieces of legislation that they wanted to have progressed and explained that he would work with them to try and achieve those goals. He said they would also have to work with them on emergency legislation regarding a contingency plan for Brexit in the New Year. Coveney added that the "real story" was the two parties working together to ensure they are ready for Brexit. This is something which has been robustly refuted by oppositions members of the lower-house.
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald described it as "astonishing" that "even by Micheál Martin's dithering standards", it took nine-weeks to establish that the Government had failed in the area of housing. Ms McDonald offered her party's "services" to speed up reviews in the future. Ms McDonald said it seemed that the Tories' difficulties, in the UK, were Fianna Fáil's opportunity "to run away again from the Irish electorate" and "deliver more of the same". She also accused Fianna Fáil of crying crocodile tears. "Bravo Micheál Martin. Well done. That's some class kind of stability as described by the Soldiers of Destiny," she said.
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