Ireland's Micheál Martin to lead historic govt coalition
AP

Ireland's Micheál Martin to lead historic govt coalition

  • Updated
  • 0

LONDON (AP) — Centrist politician Micheál Martin became Ireland’s new prime minister Saturday, fusing two longtime rival parties into a coalition four months after an election that upended the status quo.

The deal will see Martin’s Fianna Fail govern with Fine Gael — the party of outgoing leader Leo Varadkar —and with the smaller Green Party. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, bitter opponents whose roots lie in opposing sides of the civil war that followed Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom, have never before formed a government together.

“I believe civil war politics ended a long time ago in our country, but today civil war politics ends in our parliament,’’ said Varadkhar, who became Ireland's youngest and first gay prime minister three years ago. “Two great parties coming together with another great party, the Green Party, to offer what this country needs, a stable government for the betterment of our country and for the betterment of our world.''

The Dail, the lower house of Ireland's parliament, elected Martin by a vote of 93-63, with three abstentions. Martin later met with Irish President Michael D Higgins to receive his seal of office.

Under the plan approved by the parties’ memberships, Martin became taoiseach, or prime minister. He will serve until the end of 2022 and then hand the job back to Varadkar.

The left-wing nationalist party Sinn Fein was shut out of the new government even though an electoral breakthrough that saw it win the largest share of the votes in February’s election. Despite coming out ahead, Sinn Fein was unable to assemble enough support to govern.

The two centrist parties have long shunned Sinn Fein because of its historic links to the Irish Republican Army and decades of violence in Northern Ireland. But in protracted negotiations further complicated by the COVID-19 outbreak, the two rival centrist parties opted for unity.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said Fianna Fail and Fine Gael conspired to exclude her party and the voices of more than half a million people who voted for her party. She called the coalition a “marriage of convenience.”

“Faced with the prospect of losing their grip on power, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have circled the wagons,” McDonald said.

Fianna Fail holds 38 seats in the 160-seat Dail, Sinn Fein has 37 and Fine Gael has 35, while the Greens have 12 seats.

The election campaign was dominated by domestic issues. Ireland has a growing homelessness crisis, house prices that have risen faster than incomes and a public health system that hasn’t kept up with demand.

Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the country's problems. Underscoring the changes the virus has wrought, the Dail’s session Saturday was held at the Dublin Convention Centre rather than lawmakers' permanent chamber to allow for social distancing.

Martin said that dealing with the pandemic would be the centerpiece of his leadership.

“The struggle against the virus is not over,’’ he said. “We must continue to contain its spread. We must be ready to tackle any new wave, and we must move forward rapidly to secure a recovery to benefit all of our people.”

The son of a former Irish international boxer, Martin, 59, had initially embarked on a career as a secondary school teacher before devoting himself to politics.

He’s had a number of roles in more than 30 years of public life, including serving in four Cabinet posts. In his speech, he described being named taoiseach of a free republic as being the greatest honor one could achieve. He thanked those who voted for him.

“Most of all I want to thank my family and my community,'' Martin said. “Without them I could have achieved nothing.''

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Concerned about COVID-19?

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is edging toward finalizing a list of countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter Europe again in coming days, with Americans almost certain to be excluded in the short term due to the number of U.S. coronavirus cases.

  • Updated

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s right-wing president, Andrzej Duda, is fighting for a second term in an election Sunday that will test whether he was helped by a campaign that depicted LGBT rights as a dangerous “ideology” and an unconventional last-minute reception by President Donald Trump at the White House.

  • Updated

PARIS (AP) — French cosmetics giant L’Oreal said Saturday that it will remove words like “whitening” from its skin care products, a move that comes amid global protests against racism sparked by the death of George Floyd in the United States.

  • Updated

CAIRO (AP) — Russian and other foreign mercenaries have entered Libya’s largest oil field, the country's National Oil Corporation said on Friday, describing the development as an attempt to thwart the resumption of halted oil production in the war-torn country.

  • Updated

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian TikTok users awoke Tuesday to a notice from the popular short-video app saying their data would be transferred to an Irish subsidiary, a response to India's ban on dozens of Chinese apps amid a military standoff between the two countries.

  • Updated

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and dozens of donor nations pledged a total of $7.7 billion Tuesday to help tackle the humanitarian crisis deepening in Syria and neighboring countries hosting millions of Syrian refugees as the coronavirus pandemic and economic crises compound the misery of nearly a decade of civil war.

  • Updated

BERLIN (AP) — Germany, the European Union’s biggest economic power, is taking over the rotating presidency of the 27-nation bloc amid massive challenges and huge expectations as the continent grapples with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Berlin's six months in the EU hot seat will likely be Chancellor Angela Merkel’s last big turn on the international stage.

  • Updated

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union will reopen its borders to travelers from 14 countries, and possibly China soon, the bloc announced Tuesday, but most Americans have been refused entry for at least another two weeks due to soaring coronavirus infections in the U.S.

  • Updated

BEIJING (AP) — The United States, Japan and France are prodding their companies to rely less on China to make the world’s smartphones, drugs and other products. But even after the coronavirus derailed trade, few want to leave China's skilled workforce and efficient suppliers of raw materials to move to other countries.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News