May 15, 2020 / 5:25 PM / 19 days ago

Ireland's Fianna Fail aims to complete government talks by end-May

FILE PHOTO: Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is seen after the announcement of voting results in a count centre, during Ireland's national election, in Cork, Ireland, February 9, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The leader of one of the three parties negotiating to form a new government in Ireland hopes to agree a policy programme by the end of May for members to vote on and end a months-long political deadlock that has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

An inconclusive election in February led to a political deadlock and the coronavirus crisis has forced Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s caretaker government to implement extensive fiscal and political policies.

But parliament cannot pass any laws until a new prime minister is picked, including those needed to uphold key parts of a 6.5 billion euro (5.80 billion pounds) rescue package for businesses hit by the coronavirus lockdown.

Traditional rivals Fianna Fail and Fine Gael struck an initial agreement in April to govern together for the first time and the Green Party joined talks this month in a bid to reach a majority in the fractured parliament.

“I think we should aim to have a programme for government formulated by the end of this month and obviously then it has to go to the respective party memberships for their approval,” Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told national broadcaster RTE.

Martin, who is expected to take over as prime minister in a role he would rotate with Varadkar, added that he thought there should be more flexibility in the acting government’s plans to reopen the economy if the coronavirus is kept under control.

Varadkar announced earlier that the country would begin the partial and gradual reopening of the economy as planned from Monday. Martin said “other sectors” should be brought in to advise on future reopening phases.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin

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