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Clare Independent TD, Dr Michael Harty Photograph by John Kelly.

Harty frustrated over lack of engagement

Clare independent TD Dr Michael Harty has expressed his frustration over the failure of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to engage in meaningful discussions about supporting a new minority government led by the other party.

Dr Harty has also confirmed no agreement has been reached between five rural independent deputies and Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil to support a new rainbow coalition.
However, both parties have agreed to the proposed introduction of a new rural affairs minister with a substantial budget.

According to Dr Harty, one of the main tasks of the new minister is to “rural-proof” proposed decisions taken by other government departments to assess their impact on rural communities.

The Kilmihil-based deputy has joined Deputy Michael Collins from West Cork; Denis Naughton, Roscommon; Mattie McGrath, Tipperary and Noel Grealish, Galway, in a team of rural deputies who have held discussions with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil about a potential government partnership agreement.

Dr Harty said the group, which is comprised of like-minded independents, decided to approach Fine Gael first because it was the largest political party after the recent inconclusive General Election.

He stressed the group is only interested in supporting a minority-led government, if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agree to support a broad set of principles and policies that would ensure stability over two or three years at least.

As speculation intensifies about another snap General Election on April 20, Dr Harty doesn’t believe there will be another election within this timeframe.

However, he warned that another election was possible if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil do not face up and acknowledge the new political reality.

While some independents were elected on a mandate of getting rid of the government or providing a new independent voice in the Dáil, he outlined that they felt they had a duty to play a positive role in the formation of a new government.

This was despite the fact that a number of political parties, including Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and the Austerity Alliance, have opted out of the process to form a government.

“We have taken risks by engaging in exploratory talks on the possibility of a new potential political partnership. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil need to grow up and look at the figures, following the General Election.

“They have become entrenched in their old views, neither party is prepared to speak to each other about forming a coalition or agreeing support for a minority government.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not engaging with each other. Fianna Fáil has stated it is not prepared to support a Fine Gael minority government and Fine Gael is saying it is not prepared to support a Fianna Fáil minority government.

“They are ruling out power-sharing or a grand coalition. As independents, we feel we have to act as a conduit to get these two parties to actively engage with one another.
“If Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael are not prepared to give broad support for a minority administration, it will not be stable and will be brought down,” he said.

The group has held discussions with both parties, trying to find common ground concerning a number of key issues, such as homelessness and housing, jobs and rural development, justice and inequality and crime.

While the group has made successful submissions to policy documents for both parties, Dr Harty warned that, ultimately, their talks will prove pointless, unless the two biggest parties reach a new agreement.

Dan Danaher

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