Irish rivals initial government deal 'effectively complete' – minister

DUBLIN (Reuters) – An agreement between Ireland’s Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties aimed at attracting enough additional support to form a new government is “effectively complete”, a senior Fine Gael lawmaker said on Monday.

The centre-right parties, rivals who have alternated in power throughout the nation’s history but have never formed a coalition together, need the support of at least one smaller party or eight independent lawmakers to reach a majority.

The pair’s negotiating teams were due to finalise a joint paper setting out broad policy goals on Monday.

“I do understand that that document is effectively complete and has gone to both my party leader and the leader of Fianna Fail to review,” Acting Health Minister Simon Harris of Fine Gael told a news conference.

“Once it’s approved by both parliamentary parties, it will then be shared with other parties and we need them to step up. This is a time for stable government in Ireland to get on with massive challenges. We need other political parties to join us.”

Both parties steadfastly refuse to govern with the left-wing, pro-Irish unity Sinn Fein party, which surged to 37 seats in the Feb. 8 election, the same number held by Fianna Fail and two more than Fine Gael’s 35 in the fractured 160-seat chamber.

That leaves the Green Party, which has 12 seats and the centre-left Labour and Social Democrat parties, with six seats each, as the only viable partners. All three have so far shown little enthusiasm, although one of the Social Democrat’s co-leaders said on Sunday it was open to looking at the document.

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