Varadkar shamed: Irish leader under fire over ‘ridiculous’ plot to cling to power

And John McGuinness urged Mr Varadkar to “tell the truth” about the impact the ongoing coronavirus pandemic would have on the country. Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, led by Micheal Martin, last month published a 24-page framework agreement paving the way for a coalition – but need the support of others, given their combined total of seats in the 160-seat Dail, Ireland’s legislature, is 72. However, there has so far been little sign Mr Varadkar is prepared to countenance inviting Sinn Fein, led by Mary Lou McDonald, which won 35 seats in February’s election, to join the Government, instead courting support from Labour and the Greens.

Speaking to RTE’s Sarah McInerney, Mr McGuinness, a TD for the Carlow–Kilkenny constituency, said all three parties should “get together and form a government”.

He added: “Fine Gael lost the election, Fianna Fail lost seats, and Sinn Fein had a good election.

“I see no good reason why, in these economic circumstances that we shouldn’t have a government made up of these three parties.

“They should get on with it and start talking.”

“It is ridiculous that we would spend so long talking to two single parties without exploring the input of others.”

Mr McGuinness also issued a stark warning to both his own party leader and Mr Varadkar.

He explained: “If we continue to grapple with the old style of politics and if we don’t fulfil our promise that we will bring about reform and change in their interest then we will have failed.

“To tell the electorate that there will be no austerity, no increase in taxes and that we won’t impose anything on you that you don’t like is simply not telling them the truth.”

Speaking later on the same programme, Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty, TD for Donegal, emphasised his party’s wish to be included.

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He said: “We are willing to talk to anybody and everyone, but it has to be a government for change.

“One made up of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is about power and will not deliver the change people voted for, and I agree with John that this is about exclusion.”

Talks between Fine Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens entered their third day yesterday, with both Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin also having written to Labour leader Alan Kelly in a bid to enlist his support.

Speaking after Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe concluded a briefing with negotiators from all three involved parties on the economic challenges posed by coronavirus – including a predicted budget deficit which could rise to €29bn – Mr Varadkar said is was “impossible to predict” what the financial impact would ultimately be.

He said: “Nobody knows how long this pandemic is going to last. Nobody knows what form the pandemic will take – whether there will be a second wave.

“I think economic forecasts mean very little at the moment unfortunately – it’s almost in the realm of astrology.

Describing Mr Donohoe’s briefing as an “honest appraisal”, he added: “It is not going to come as a shock to anyone”.

Whichever Government came, “difficult choices” lay ahead, Mr Varadkar added, with the “right choice” being to get people back to work and reopening the economy.

All of the parties had entered the talks in good faith, all wanted to succeed and they should proceed on that basis, he added.

One party which will not be joining a coalition government is the centre-left Social Democrats, led by TDs Roisin Shortall and Catherine Murphy.

A statement issued yesterday set out plans to offer “constructive opposition if the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition emerges from the current negotiations”.

Mrs Shortall said: “We are strongly of the view that trying to continue on with more of the same and a ‘business as usual’ approach will inevitably be damaging to the vast majority of ordinary households in Ireland.”

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