herald

Friday 15 December 2017

'We don't expect to see a snap election called', says Martin

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin
Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin

Fianna Fail does not expect Leo Varadkar to call a snap election in the months after becoming Taoiseach, its leader Micheal Martin has said.

Mr Martin has received a series of guarantees from Mr Varadkar ahead of Wednesday's Dail vote that will see him take up the country's top political job.

"There hasn't been enough progress on (the) housing and homeless issue. Health is getting worse in terms of access. Disabilities issues still loom large.

"I signalled to him that in the context of Brexit and the strategic future of the country, education has to be centre-stage in terms of planning for the future," Mr Martin said.

Pressure

The confidence and supply arrangement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail is due to stay in place for two more budgets - but there has been much speculation that Mr Varadkar might seek his own mandate from the electorate after he becomes Taoiseach.

The shock result of the UK election is likely to have tempered that view and Mr Martin said he does not believe the country will face a snap election in the near future.

"I didn't get the sense last week that he was contemplating an early run - but nonetheless the pressure comes on, the opinion polls happen and people get carried along with it," he said.

"I get the sense that he wants to give this a chance and create his own space and room.

"I don't see him going for a snap election in terms of policy platform. We spoke about the confidence and supply and the need for action and delivery."

Mr Martin told the Herald that British prime minister Theresa May displayed "arrogance and hubris" by calling a snap election in a bid to increase her majority in the UK parliament.

"I think it shows the folly of falling for the punditry, falling for the opinion polls," he said.

However, Mr Martin said the result of the UK election should ensure a better Brexit deal from Ireland's perspective.

"The capacity of the British to deliver a hard Brexit has been reduced significantly."

He added that the "moderate element" within the Conservative Party will be "emboldened" by the result while the Labour Party is likely to try to temper Mrs May's talk of a hard Brexit.

Mr Martin said the central role now on offer for the DUP should help the Irish case.

Soft

"There are probably different strands of opinion in the DUP.

"They would probably want to avoid language around special status but in real politik terms we already know from Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson that they don't want a hard Border," he said.

"They want a soft Border in terms of trade, the common travel area and the retentions of seamless interaction between Britain and Ireland for our citizens in the North and South."

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