Fianna Fail leader rejects Taoiseach’s request to hold government deal talks

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Ireland’s opposition leader has rejected a request by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to hold talks on an extension of the Confidence and Supply deal.

Mr Varadkar published a letter he sent to the leader of Fianna Fail Micheal Martin in which he set out an “ambitious programme” and appealed for talks to extend their deal by two years.

Mr Martin however said his party will discuss the process when the Budget has been announced next month.

In the letter published on Mr Varadkar’s Twitter page, the Fine Gael leader said that the government cannot function “if it is living on borrowed time”.

“A government cannot function if it does not know if it will last from week-to-week or month-to-month,” he said.

He added that uncertainty “weakens our hand” in Brexit talks and said he would be willing to appoint a negotiation team immediately.

In the four-page letter, Mr Varadkar suggested that a general election be held in 2020.

In a response letter, however, Mr Martin said he would not be willing to enter talks until after the Budget is set in early October.

He added: “I don’t see a reasonable basis for the statement in your letter that ‘government cannot function if it does not know if it will last from week-to-week or month-to-month’.

“This has no grounding in our constitutional system and was not raised as an issue when the arrangement was negotiated.

“Indeed it would be extraordinary if we were to agree that Ministers could not be expected to do their jobs without advance assurance of a compliant Dail.”

Both parties are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the Budget.

Members of Fianna Fail have criticised the letter which was published on the social media site on Tuesday.

Fianna Fail Justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said the Taoiseach’s letter was a “distraction” and creating “instability”.

Speaking on RTE’s News at One, he said: “I believe the Taoiseach wants to have a general election in October or November.

“He knows that under the terms of the Confidence and Supply he can’t have an election in October or November and that’s why I believe he is trying to orchestrate a mechanism of trying to get out of it.

“He needs to concentrate on the priorities facing the country rather than the priorities facing Fine Gael ministers and himself.

“It’s not about jobs for ministerial positions or jobs being on the line, it’s about focusing on the issues in this country such as housing and health which the Government needs to focus on more.”

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