Draft agreement reached on formation of new Irish gov’t

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A draft agreement on the formation of a new Irish government has been reached among the leaders of three major political parties here on Monday after more than a month of formal negotiations, reported Irish national radio and television broadcaster RTE.

Leaders of the three parties, namely Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have signed off on the draft agreement, which will be up to the final approval of the members of their respective parties, said the report.

If the draft agreement is approved by all three parties, Ireland will see a government formed by two rival political parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail for the first time in history.

It will be the second time for the Green Party to enter the government since it was founded in 1981.

Political analysts here say that while there is a general consensus in the country that a new government is urgently needed to get the country’s social and economic life badly hit by the COVID-19 crisis back to normal, there still exists some uncertainty whether or not the draft agreement can win enough support from all members of the three parties, particularly from the Green Party.

Details of the draft agreement are not immediately available though some of its contents have been reported by local media. It is most likely that the complete text of the draft agreement will not be made to the public until it has been approved and finalized by all three parties.

RTE reported that if the agreement is ratified by all the parties it would see Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin serving as prime minister of the new government until December 2022, after which the role will be passed onto Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar for the remaining years of the term of the new government.

The term of an Irish government is no more than five years, according to Irish laws.

RTE quoted Martin as saying just before attending the sign-off of the agreement at Government Buildings that the program reached for the new government is a compromise of the policy proposals of the three parties.

“Every party doesn’t win everything,” he said.

Varadkar, who has been a caretaker prime minister of Ireland since the February general election in the country, confirmed to local media on Monday morning that there will be a rotating taoiseach (prime minister in Irish) role as part of the program. He also said that he did not know what post he would assume in the new cabinet.

Ryan of the Green Party said that the agreement contained a lot of things which, if delivered on, would be a huge achievement.

He also disclosed that no decisions have been made on the selection of ministries of the new government, saying that the process would be a “complex jigsaw” that the leaders of the three parties would have to work out.

Roderic O’Gorman, a Green Party member of the lower house of the Irish parliament, confirmed to local media that there is no discussion on the cabinet positions of the new government during the negotiations and such issues will be discussed among the party leaders only after the agreement is approved by the three parties.

It is reported that the approval of the agreement requires simple majority support from all the members of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and two-thirds support from the members of the Green Party.

Formal negotiations on the formation of the new Irish government among the three parties took place in early May with each party trying to incorporate their policy proposals into the programs of the new government to a maximum possible extent.

One of the thorny issues in the government formation talks was the 7 percent annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions proposed by the Green Party, which was initially deemed by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail as too ambitious and unpractical, according to media reports.

The Green Party’s proposal to annually reduce carbon emissions by 7 percent throughout the term of the new government also poses a big concern for Irish farmers, which have a big say in the country’s political life, said local media.

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael need the Green Party in forming a new government.

In the general election held on Feb. 8, Fianna Fail won 38 seats in the lower house of the Irish parliament, followed by Sinn Fein (37 seats), Fine Gael (35 seats), and Green Party (12 seats) with the other remaining seats in the 160-seat house to be held by other smaller parties and independents.

According to Irish laws, a new government can only be established if it can win the simply majority support or over 80 seats in the lower house. As both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael refuse to form a coalition government with the left-wing party Sinn Fein, they went to the Green Party for its support based on the belief that only such a coalition government can last long.

The government formation talks could have started much earlier if not due to the disruption of the pandemic which broke out in the country at the end of February.

According to local media reports, the draft agreement will be put to the votes by all the members of the three parties for their approval and the results of the votes will be announced on June 26.

Hours after the news about the draft agreement being signed off by the leaders of the three parties, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald issued a statement, saying that a government led by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail “does not represent the change” that people had voted for in February.

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