By Vivienne Clarke
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he “doesn't buy the argument” that tackling climate change and helping rural Ireland are mutually exclusive.
A carbon emissions reduction of 7% is a "red-line" for the Green party, but some Fianna Fáil TDs have raised concerns about the impact of that on farming and rural communities.
Mr Martin told Newstalk Breakfast that he believed a new government could focus on reducing emissions without damaging rural Ireland in the process.
“I don’t buy the argument that climate change and rural Ireland are somehow mutually exclusive - I take an opposite view, actually. I think the conventional approaches to rural Ireland haven’t quite worked up until now.
“The deep retrofitting programme could create jobs, for example, and other related sectors - in terms of wind energy and so, particularly offshore wind - is an area that we should develop and exploit more as a country.
"We haven’t been doing it sufficiently to date, which can create its own economic dividends.”
While other party leaders had expressed the hope that a new government could be in place by June, Mr Martin said he did not know if that could be done, but it was what Fianna Fáil was aiming for.
“All parties have said they would like to see a government by June. There will be a ratification process for every party. I think people will get impatient if it drags on too long."
Mr Martin would not be drawn on whether he or Leo Varadkar would be first in line to be Taoiseach in any Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition.
The two leaders have discussed the issue, he said, but both had agreed that a programme for government is the main priority.
The various parties had agreed to not have a "running commentary" while talks are ongoing.