Naughten calls for deadline on Government formation talks

Denis Naughten says it’s time for Labour, the Green Party and the Social Democrats to make up their minds once and for all as to whether or not they are prepared to support a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael Coalition Government.

The Independent TD says the smaller parties ought to make their position known by this weekend.

“Some extremely difficult decisions will need to be taken in this country over the coming weeks and months, and they cannot be made by a caretaker Government” Deputy Naughten said.

The Roscommon/Galway TD and former minister is the most prominent of an eight-strong group of Independent TDs who held government formation talks with both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on Monday.

It is widely believed that this ‘Regional Independent’ group will throw its support in behind an FF/FG led Coalition.

Speaking to the Roscommon People on Tuesday night, Deputy Naughten, who is convener of the Independent group, said that the scale of the crisis facing the country is such that it is high time a new government was formed.

“We have small businesses that don’t know if they will be able to reopen or not, families where the adults are unsure about their employment future, and agriculture in a very serious place. We made the point (at Monday’s meeting) that we need a government with a clear mandate, one that will serve for the next five years. Critical decisions will have to be taken. We are in the middle of a health crisis and a dire economic crisis, but we are coming to a stage where the public health advice will have to be weighed against the mental health advice and against the economic advice. Difficult decisions will have to be made and they cannot be made by a caretaker government”.

As to whether or not the Regional Independents are available to join the Coalition as a block of eight, Deputy Naughten said: “We spoke with Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin and from day one we said that two of those three parties would need to come together and that a third leg was then needed, in other words one of the smaller parties. In that context we would be prepared to sit town and try to negotiate a Programme for Government – but only as an equal partner in such discussions and not as a last-minute addition to make up numbers”.

Deputy Naughten said that it would be up to each individual member of the group of eight Independent TDs to decide whether or not they would support any such programme.

It’s expected that Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin will both serve a period as Taoiseach as part of the new Coalition. Deputy Naughten said that he had no preference as to which of them should take up the reins in the short-term.

“That’s a matter between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. But it’s time now for this to happen, it’s eleven weeks since the election. We need leadership, leadership that can only be provided by a stable Government with a clear mandate – and this needs to happen quickly”.