Irish MPs elected Fianna Fail leader in center right Micheal Martin as head of a coalition government on Saturday after months of negotiations amid a pandemic.
Ireland finally has a new prime minister. More than four months after the legislative elections in Ireland, on Saturday, June 27, members of Fianna Fail’s center-right party, Micheal Martin, elected head of a coalition government with centrist rival Fine Gael and the Greens. .
The members of these three formations gave green light Friday to a coalition agreement without the nationalists in Sinn Fein, after months of full epidemic negotiations.
The coalition government will have a rotating leadership. Micheal Martin, whose Fianna Fail party is the largest parliamentary group with 38 of the 160 seats, will be the first head of government until December 2022. He succeeds Leo Varadkar, the leader of rival centrist Fine Gael, who should become prime minister after Micheal Martin, under the rotation system introduced.
Following the vote between the deputies – exceptionally organized in a convention center in Dublin – Micheal Martin went to Aras en Uachtarain, the residence of Irish President Michael D. Higgins, who will officially call him Prime Minister or “Taoiseach”.
Speaking shortly after his election, Micheal Martin said fighting the pandemic would be his government’s priority in the coming months.
“2278 people on this island have lost their lives,” the new head of government said. Despite “significant progress” since March, “the fight against the virus is not over,” he said.
Micheal Martin explained that Ireland is facing the fastest recession that has ever hit it and that urgent action is needed to enable an economic recovery.
The new prime minister also talked about other challenges, which precede Covid-19 and remain, such as access to affordable housing and the climate crisis.
The February election had shaken the political landscape in Ireland, where the two central parties had been in power for a century. This time, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail needed the support of the 12 deputies from the Environment Party to reach the threshold of 80 seats necessary to establish a parliamentary majority.
Prior to the deputies, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar described the “historic” alliance between the two centrist parties, whose rivalry dates back to the civil war of 1922. He said he was “impatient to serve in the government”.
With a program anchored to the left, Sinn Fein, favorable for reunification with Northern Ireland, came on top with 24.5% of voters. But for failing to present enough candidates, it was only the second political force in Parliament with 37 seats.