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Government talks 'going well' - Leo

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Talks to form the next government are going well, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

He said he hoped to be able to negotiate a programme for the new administration's priorities before the end of this month.

Discussions between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party have been taking place this week to appoint a new team of ministers.

Negotiators have been discussing policies on the economy, housing, healthcare and climate change.

"Talks are going well, and I'm still confident that it will be possible to negotiate a programme for government, ideally before the end of the month," Mr Varadkar said.

Consequences

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have been trying to draw other parties and Independents into the talks process, but Aontu, the Social Democrats and the Labour Party have all ruled themselves out.

Mr Varadkar warned that governance would be a "hard labour" as Ireland recovers from the downturn caused by coronavirus restrictions.

"It's not going to be an easy time to be in government," he said. "The economic consequences of this virus are going to be very severe in terms of jobs lost, in terms of businesses which will not open again, in terms of the impact on public finances. This country needs a government that is led by people that want to be in government even when it's not easy."

Efforts to form a government are intensifying, three months on from February's inconclusive election.

Fianna Fail won 38 seats (a tally reduced to 37 after one of its TDs was re-elected speaker), Sinn Fein 37 and Fine Gael 35, with the Greens on 12 and Labour on six.

A majority of 80 seats is needed to form a government.

Yesterday, the Labour Party formally ruled itself out.

Leader Alan Kelly wrote in a letter to the Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin that his party's position on economic policy was at odds and criticised a "lack of clear direction" on a coronavirus unemployment payment.