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Irish parties plan to sign coalition deal after 4 months of political deadlock

Irish political parties Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens will sign a deal on Monday on the formation of a new coalition government, Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin said after talks on Sunday aimed at ending four months of political deadlock.

The talks will resume on Monday morning to resolve the final issues, negotiators for the three parties told journalists.

“We’ve had good progress made, so we’re going to sign off tomorrow on it,” Martin said. “We’re nearly there.”

Martin, whose Fianna Fail party has 37 seats in the 160-seat Parliament after the closely fought February election, is widely expected to take over as prime minister from Leo Varadkar, whose Fine Gael party has 35 seats, if the deal is ratified by the three parties.

Martin and Varadkar are then expected to rotate the role during the government’s five-year term.

The inconclusive Feb. 8 election pushed centre-right Fine Gael and Fianna Fail together for the first time. The once dominant parties have swapped power throughout the nation’s history since emerging from opposing sides of Ireland’s 1920s civil war.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, part of Fine Gael’s negotiating team, told reporters he hoped the parties would be in a position to bring the talks to a conclusion on Monday.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan, whose party has 12 seats, said the parties were just “crossing the ‘t’s” in the proposed program for government.

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael need the Greens to command a majority in the fractured Parliament that cannot pass any new laws, including those needed to uphold a  $12.7 billion Cdn package of support measures for coronavirus-hit businesses, until a new administration is formed.

Any agreement would have to be ratified by grassroots members from each party, with the smaller Greens requiring two-thirds support — a higher bar than the larger parties — which could yet scupper the deal.

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