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Sunday 22 October 2017

FF leader tackles Leo but insists no talk of election

Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne, party leader Micheal Martin and Dara Calleary speak to the media on the Plinth at Leinster House Dublin after meeting the new Leader of Fine Gael and future taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne, party leader Micheal Martin and Dara Calleary speak to the media on the Plinth at Leinster House Dublin after meeting the new Leader of Fine Gael and future taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said he is prepared to take on Fine Gael 'young gun' Leo Varadkar - but now is not the time for a general election.

Mr Martin used a two-hour meeting with the new Fine Gael leader "to make it clear" that Fianna Fail is not "entirely happy" with how the "confidence and supply" arrangement has worked over the past year, particularly in the areas of housing and health.

However, he concluded that there was "no push back" from Mr Varadkar and therefore he deserves "to be given reasonable time" to improve the situation.

"We don't believe you should have a general election every 12 months," Mr Martin said afterwards.

Direction

Mr Varadkar is now on course to become Taoiseach next Wednesday, following another series of meetings with Independent ministers.

He said last night that he felt talks with all sides are "going in the right direction".

"The meetings focused on legislation that needs to be prioritised, improving the working of the Dail and accelerating the implementation of commitments in the Programme for Government," he said.

After his meeting Mr Martin denied he is concerned about the prospect of facing the 38-year-old Dublin TD in an election campaign.

Many in Fianna Fail see the next election as Mr Martin's final chance to become Taoiseach.

Asked whether he was concerned about going head-to-head with Mr Varadkar, the 56-year-old replied: "I don't feel old at all. It's a ridiculous proposition. That's not a concern and I will be leading Fianna Fail into the next general election.

"At the last election, despite all the negative predictions, I think we did better than everybody thought. I can assure you we will do better again next time out."

Independent ministers Denis Naughten and Katherine Zappone also met with Mr Varadkar yesterday, along with Independent TD Michael Harty.

Dr Harty voted for Enda Kenny's election as Taoiseach but has an "open mind" in relation to his successor, saying the Government has failed rural Ireland so far.

Mr Naughten wants more action on rural Ireland and faster improvement in the health sector, while Ms Zappone is seeking to change the Government's negotiating line on Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa who has been in custody in Egypt for four years.

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