Peter Fitzpatrick remains hopeful that the new Regional Independents group formed upon the return of Dáil Éireann two weeks ago will play a key role in the formation of a new government.
The Independent TD, once of Fine Gael, is one of nine TDs in the group including former Minister for Communications Denis Naughton and Aontu leader Peader Toibin. The group were established on the first day of the 33rd Dáil Éireann, following the decision by the chamber to establish a business committee to progress the day-to-day operation of parliamentary business.
The group held talks, as did the Rural Independents, with the three main parties last week as talks continue in an attempt to form a government. Fitzpatrick, now in his third term as a TD in Leinster House, participated in all three meetings.
Last Tuesday morning he was part of an eight-strong team that met with Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael, before talks in the afternoon with Micheal Martin and a delegation from Fianna Fáil. On Wednesday, Fitzpatrick himself had a one-to-one meeting with Matt Carthy of Sinn Féin.
More meetings are due to take place this week, with the Regional Independents again playing their part – but Fitzpatrick said the group will likely not reach a consensus over who to support.
“There’s a group of nine of us. Over the next few days, we’re going to go and listen to all and then come back as a group and we will decide after that what will happen then,” Fitzpatrick told LouthNow.ie. “The whole nine of us are not going to agree to do a deal with anybody but maybe a majority of us can stick together and maybe help to form some part of a government.
“As I said from day one, I will talk to all parties.”
Fitzpatrick, who left Fine Gael in 2018 after airing his opposition to the parties’ stance during the abortion referendum, was complimentary about all three – Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and his former party, despite Leo Varadkar’s assertion that he is preparing Fine Gael for life as the opposition.
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“I’m impressed with the three of them. Micheal Martin said he wants to get into government. Leo is saying that he wants to stay in opposition and Matt Carthy says that Sinn Fein want to form a government.
“We listened to their policies,” Fitzpatrick said, while also stating he felt the parties were “similar in a lot of things.”
“The three parties are similar in a lot of things. That’s what I find. They’ve all got the same issues – they all want to sort housing out, they all want to sort health out.
“We never got into the fine, bottom line things,” he continued, adding that he expects to delve deeper into policy issues this week.
“The main thing was to ensure we all know each other. We’ve all got mutual respect for eachother. They know two of the three have to go together. A minority government, with the numbers they have there, is not going to work out.”
The Regional Group is made up of Cathal Berry TD, Sean Canney TD, Noel Grealish TD, Michael Lowry TD, Verona Murphy TD and Matt Shanahan TD, as well as Naughton, Toibin and Fitzpatrick.
The Louth County Board chairman is one of four former Fine Gael TDs in The Regional Group – along with Naughton, Murphy and Lowry. He won the fifth seat in the General Election earlier this month, securing a third term in Dáil Éireann. The Louth GAA County Board chairman secured 10,779 total votes.
Deputy Fitzpatrick said the formation of the group hinged on all nine Independents being “in the right place at the right time.” The group say that ensuring ‘regional balance’ what it comes to government policy and funding is important.
“We all know eachother from the last number of years except maybe three of the new TDs. We were all there in the right place at the right time. We all said he wanted to be part of a group – we started off with three, four, five and then we ended up with nine. I think nine’s enough.
“The amount of work going on in Dublin, the rest of Ireland seems to have been left behind. There’s nobody in the group from the Dublin region. We’ve all got similar ideas,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was very handy for all nine of us to get together and form the group. The bottom line is we all realise the people of Ireland voted for change, we all realise that change is needed and we all want to play our part in making change happen.
“Instead of Peter Fitzpatrick battling alone, we have nine people. We’re a team, we’re a group. All of a sudden a lot doors have opened for us. I would be very surprised in the nine of us will stay together but I hope the majority of us can stay together and help form a government.”