June 27, 2018 / 11:58 AM / 21 days ago

Irish PM keen to start talks on renewing government pact

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s prime minister wants talks with the main opposition party on renewing a government pact to start well in advance of its expiry at the end of the year and will discuss the issue with his opposite number shortly.

FILE PHOTO: Ireland’s Prime Minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Leo Varadkar’s minority government operates with the backing of some independent lawmakers and is facilitated by an agreement with his Fine Gael party’s main rival, Fianna Fail, to abstain from opposition on key votes until the end of 2018.

The two centre-right parties’ “confidence and supply” deal was struck to enable the passage of three annual budgets with a review at the end of this year following the completion of the third and final budget for 2019.

FILE PHOTO: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar votes as Ireland holds a referendum on liberalizing its law on abortion, in Dublin, Ireland, May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi

“For a government to function and govern well, that government needs to know it is going to be around in a month’s time or two month’s time or three month’s time and that is why I think it is prudent that we should renew the confidence and supply agreement before it expires,” Varadkar told reporters.

“And I do want to renew it, I think this government is working well. We’ve a lot of work to do to deal with outstanding challenges and in order to do that, we will need an extension and that is something I will talk about a little bit later.”

Varadkar said this was something he was going “to talk about in the next couple of weeks” and would discuss first it with Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

Martin, whose party trails Fine Gael in opinion poll by a wider margin than at the last parliamentary elections in 2016, has said he does not wish to wish to review the agreement until the end of the year.

The parties can extend the agreement for another two years before Varadkar would be obliged to call elections. A failure to renew the deal would likely trigger an early election.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin

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