Naughten: I can’t guarantee support

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Independent TD and former minister Denis Naughten said he will only support the Government on a case-by-case basis, should a vote of confidence be called.

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Amid heightened tensions between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the role of Independent TDs such as Mr Naughten, Noel Grealish, and Michael Lowry has come into focus as their votes are needed to keep the Government in office.

Mr Naughten told the Irish Examiner: “My position remains the same as it was for the last 14 months. I will support the Government on a case-by-case basis. Over the 14-month period [since resigning as communications minister], I’ve voted with them on some issues, tabled counter-motions and amendments on some issues, and voted against them on other issues.”

His failure to guarantee support heaps further pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who, according to some ministers, has toyed with the idea of calling the election before the Dáil resumes on January 15.

Queries sent to Mr Lowry and Mr Grealish went unanswered.

Tensions between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been running high in recent days.

A call from Dara Calleary, Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader, for Fine Gael to reciprocate the confidence and supply deal should the numbers require it, was branded as “arrogant” by Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy.

Several ministers rounded on Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath after he described Fine Gael’s targeting of Lisa Chambers as “sinister”, while Health Minister Simon Harris called on Mr McGrath and Fianna Fáil to apologise to former tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald for “hounding” her out of office.

A meeting between Mr Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is expected to take place before the Dáil’s stated date of return, sources have said.

Mr Martin has not responded in writing to a letter from Mr Varadkar, sent on December 23, which sought to agree a programme of work for the upcoming session before a general election takes place.

Mr Varadkar has insisted on reaching agreement on property tax reforms with Mr Martin before agreeing a date for the forthcoming general election, reported the Sunday Independent.

Sources have said the proposal was just one of a number of matters raised by Mr Varadkar in the letter.

Since freezing the property tax, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he plans to introduce a “modest” property tax increase next year by broadening the housing valuation bands and cutting the rates at which it is paid. He has been reluctant to give details of how much property owners will pay.

In the letter to Mr Martin, Mr Varadkar said he is open to dissolving the Dáil after Easter, as suggested by the Fianna Fáil leader, if he agreed to an “ambitious” legislative programme for the coming months.

Mr Varadkar said agreeing to reform of the property tax system should be central to any deal struck between the party leaders.



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