The Green Party’s leader in Northern Ireland, Clare Bailey, has rejected a deal in which the Greens would be part of a new Irish coalition government.
The proposed coalition would see Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sharing power for the first time in Irish history, with essential support from the Green Party.
Ms Bailey is one of several prominent party members opposed to the deal.
She and seven others signed a statement saying the programme for government plan “represents an unjust recovery”.
The Republic of Ireland held a general election on 8 February, in which no party came close to winning an 80-seat majority that would allow them to govern alone.
Talks to form a coalition were then delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday 15 June, the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party in the Republic of Ireland agreed a draft programme for government, but it is subject to approval by members of all three parties.
Green Party members in Northern Ireland can vote on the deal, but only 195 out of about 800 members had registered to do so by Wednesday’s deadline.
Now their leader Ms Bailey, who had previously been remained tight-lipped on the issue, has said she cannot support the arrangement.
‘A better deal is possible’
The Green Party had 12 representatives elected to the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in February’s election.
Three of the Green’s 12 Dáil members – Francis Duffy, Patrick Costello and Neasa Hourigan – signed the joint statement rejecting the deal, along with Ms Bailey and four other party members from Northern Ireland.
Their statement said the programme for government “represents one of the most fiscally conservative arrangements in a generation”.
It added that a “better deal is possible” and voting no was “a step towards securing that better deal”.
Leo Varadkar has been caretaker taoiseach (Irish prime minister) since February, following a disappointing election result for his Fine Gael party.
Under the proposed coalition deal, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin would serve as taoiseach until December 2022, at which stage Mr Varadkar would take on the role again.
A two-thirds majority of Greens who are registered to vote is required to ratify the deal.
On Thursday, Green Party members in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland held an eight-hour online convention to discuss the deal.
More than two thirds of those who spoke during the event expressed their support.
Ms Bailey abstained in an advisory vote on Monday evening, when the Irish Greens’ parliamentary team voted in favour of the plan, but on Sunday she made her position clear.
Some members of the Green Party in Northern Ireland have privately expressed concerns about aspects of the plan.
Former Ards and North Down councillor John Barry, who remains a party member, had already said he would be urging the Greens to reject it.
A ballot of all three parties will take place, with the results due next Friday.