A historic deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to allow both parties to enter government together has been formally signed off by leaders Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin.
The parties have agreed to seek to enter government on the basis of a “full and equal partnership,” effectively ending Civil War politics in this country after 98 years.
After a series of talks last week, and further work by the parties over the weekend, Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin met today to conclude the talks and to approve the document, which they hope will entice some of the smaller political parties into power with them.
For only the second time in history, the two parties got less than 50% of the popular vote between them and realised that if they wanted to maintain their desire to keep Sinn Féin out of power, then they would have to come together.
The document, agreed by the two leaders, will now be shared with TDs and Senators in both parties tomorrow before being delivered to the Green Party, Labour and the Social Democrats for consideration.
In a message to all members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, chairman Martin Heydon wrote: “The Taoiseach has asked me to inform the parliamentary party that he met Micheál Martin earlier today and that they have agreed a policy framework document that could form the basis for a Programme for Government.
Fine Gael TDs and Senators were told that the party has set “seven tests” that any future coalition must pass if a Government is to be formed.
An internal group headed by Communications Minister Richard Bruton has developed and finalised the seven conditions which must be met if the party is to enter government for a historic third successive term.
The first condition on the list, seen by the Irish Examiner, establishes that nothing should distract from the “task of protecting our people during the present Covid-19 crisis.”
The second test is that any arrangement must “offer the prospect of stable durable Government which has “broad based legitimacy.”
The third is that a coalition must offer a “new mission and sense of purpose which demonstrates urgency for doing things differently, and reflects our values and our ability to lead change at critical times.”
In a major attempt to lure the Green Party into government talks, the list sets out that any new government must put sustainability at the heart of fiscal policy.
Also, any new government must address key pressure points for the cost of living; implement reforms which will restore a strong role for the parliamentary party; implement a vibrant policy agenda which responds to public needs within the tight constraints likely to prevail.
In addition to the seven tests, a set of 10 priorities set out by a Fine Gael reference group insists the next government should strengthen “early years support to children by combining better early intervention, development of skills and leadership in the sector, and ensuring high standards and affordability”.
It also says a new government must overhaul the local property tax system and increase the powers of local councillors.
The list of 10 priorities set out that the parties must also develop a dynamic and reforming public service which is monitored using scorecards.
The public service must operate with “real accountability” and have an “appropriate relationship to the political system”, the document states.
Any government deal should involve a “new social contract” which embraces all communities and “responds to the new risks and costs of living which are creating concern in people’s lives”, the reference group has recommended.
It also calls for “fairness and equality of opportunity so everyone is given a chance to fulfil their potential, particularly those with disabilities to overcome”.
“In particular it will include a clear contract for the young who have borne many burdens in recent years,” it adds.
On health, it says Slainte Care should be “re-evaluated” to determine the gains made from the project while also committing to “retaining positive changes” implemented in the health service during the Covid-19 emergency.
From The Irish Examiner.