DUBLIN (Reuters) – The leader of one of the parties negotiating to form a new Irish government raised the prospect on Wednesday of talks drifting well into June, extending a months-long deadlock that has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Rivals Fianna Fail and Fine Gael struck an initial agreement two weeks ago to govern together for the first time but need the support of at least one smaller party or eight independent lawmakers to control the fractured parliament.
The deal followed weeks of negotiations after a general election in February, which resulted in a hung parliament.
The centre-right parties favour a coalition with the Green Party, which has 12 seats, and have been answering questions from the Greens over their initial framework deal that they hope will lead to formal negotiations between the three groups.
Some Green Party members are unsure about joining such a government, sceptical that the two larger parties will pursue ambitious enough environmental policies.
Asked if a new government would be in place by June 8, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told Ireland’s Virgin Media television station: “I’m not so sure yet at this stage.”
“It’s not in my gift but I do think there will come a time when people will have to get off the fence and say ‘we want to go into government’ and they’ll negotiate, because this cannot go on indefinitely,” he said in an interview with the station.
Acting Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael has imposed a series of restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus but no new legislation can be passed until a new government is formed and selects the remaining members of the upper house of parliament.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Jane Wardell)