herald

Tuesday 25 June 2019

We'll give it a year - FF likely to let Leo stay on until 2020

Micheal Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Micheal Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Fianna Fail is preparing to keep Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in power until early 2020.

The likelihood of a general election this year has largely evaporated on foot of the new Brexit deadline of October 31.

While many Fianna Fail TDs held expectations the party would pull the plug on Fine Gael after the Dail's summer break, senior sources say leader Micheal Martin will resist any pressure to collapse the Government.

On the Fine Gael side, ministerial sources say they expect to "get back to normal work" now that Brexit is temporarily being pushed into the background.

The Taoiseach has ruled out the prospect of a reshuffle, meaning embattled housing and health ministers Eoghan Murphy and Simon Harris will stay in position for another year.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is expected to provide the Cabinet with an economic update on Tuesday.

He is already working toward the publication of a summer economic statement, which will set the broad boundaries for budget negotiations with Fianna Fail.

The prospect of negotiating another budget is not one either party is looking forward to.

"One will have to be agreed now because of all the dates on which Varadkar could go to the park, the first two weeks of October just can't happen," a source said.

Big battles over how to increase carbon tax and the reform of property tax are already on the horizon.

The confidence and supply agreement between the two parties was renewed last December - but there was widespread expectation in Leinster House that it would be ended once Brexit was resolved.

However, a senior Fianna Fail figure told the Herald: "The uncertainty over Brexit will remain until October and beyond even if there is a general election in the UK.

Defend

"If Leo wants an election he can go to the Aras any day... but he would find it hard to defend going over the next few months."

A Fine Gael minister said Mr Varadkar had always maintained that he did not want an election until summer 2020.

"Spring next year seems more likely but we're definitely going nowhere this year unless Theresa May passes the deal in the next few weeks," they said.

Another Government source said: "Looks like we might have to play nice with Barry Cowen in October after all."

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