herald

Thursday 23 January 2020

'Cordial' meeting with FF but Varadkar will turn to Independents

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will turn to controversial Independent TDs Noel Grealish and Michael Lowry in a bid to cling to power for the next four months.

The Taoiseach is under pressure from his ministers to put distance between recent controversies, including the Black and Tans debacle, and the forthcoming general election.

Mr Varadkar said he would spend the coming days speaking to his own party, Independent ministers and also Independent TDs who have supported the Government in the past, in an attempt to remain in power.

Convicted

This will include Mr Grealish, who the Taoiseach has criticised for his comments on migrants, and Mr Lowry, who has been convicted of a tax offence.

The move means Mr Varadkar has dropped his demand that Fianna Fail supports the Government on crucial votes in return for him agreeing to an election date.

Last night, Mr Varadkar met Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and discussed legislation which could be passed if the Dail was to return next week.

They have agreed to hold further talks next week.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael was given an election boost as it emerged economic growth is expected to soar this year after a no-deal Brexit was avoided.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe expects growth to be 3.9pc this year with an estimated budget surplus of €2.4bn.

At the hour-long meeting between the two party leaders, both sides set out their legislative priorities and agreed to consider each other's proposals.

The meeting was said to be "cordial" and "amicable", with both sides agreeing there was basis for a further discussions.

They also discussed whether Mr Martin could guarantee the support of his entire party on important votes.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Simon Coveney revealed last night there has been a breakthrough in talks to restore a devolved government in the North.

The British and Irish governments presented a 50-page document to restore powersharing institutions, three years after the collapse of Stormont.

"The document you are receiving today is relatively short but the path to get us here is longer than many people would have thought and it has taken a lot longer than the public would have thought," Mr Coveney said.

"The best place to govern Northern Ireland is here, in Northern Ireland," he said, adding the parties would now have to sell it to their supporters.

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