Leo Varadkar begs for support of rival parties to end deadlock amid coronavirus

The Irish prime minister said a new government would need to have a “stable working majority” and last at least four years. He admitted a deal would require more than the support of Fianna Fail, opening the door for the Green Party, Independent TDs and smaller parties. But the Greens’ whip and finance spokeswoman, Neasa Hourigan, slapped down the idea of a holding coalition talks with Mr Varadkar and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

She told the Irish Times: “We have reached a very clear decision and consensus [within the party] that we will not be engaging in anything other than discussions for a unity or national government.

“We have decided as a group there will be no other type of decision from our side.”
The Green Party won 12 seats in the February 8 election.
The group wants to see a temporary national government encompassing the whole parliament while the coronavirus crisis continues.

Ireland has reported 1,329 cases of COVID1-19 and seven deaths.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said his own party’s 35 seats and Fianna Fail’s 37 would simply not be enough to form a strong government.

He said: “Between the two parties, we only have 72 seats.

“I think for a stable working majority, you’re going to need 82 to 85.

“So that means having at least 10 more TDs who are willing to come on board, take the whip, stay the course, be willing to make the tough decisions as well as the popular ones for the next four years.”

While he admitted his party was “not there yet” he said they would continue to hold discussion with their main rivals, Fianna Fail.

The centre-right parties have never formed a coalition together.

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Both have refused to govern with pro-Irish unity party Sinn Fein.

The nationalists surged to win 37 seats in last month’s election.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald initially said it was likely she would be Ireland’s next Taoiseach, or Prime Minister.

But the possibility of this happening looks increasingly unlikely.

Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael agreed two weeks ago to step up talks with Fianna Fail, but emergency measures to fight the health and economic crisis have taken precedence.

Ireland’s 160-seat parliament is sitting only intermittently during the epidemic.

Ireland’s fractured parliament passed a series of emergency measures last week and will do so again on Thursday.

But Mr Varadkar said there was concern about the ability to pass laws after next week once elections to the upper house are completed.

The republic’s upper house cannot be fully constituted until an additional selection of members is picked by a new prime minister.

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