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Enda Kenny is back in for a second spell as Taoiseach

By Ed Carty

Published 07/05/2016

Enda Kenny is congratulated by his supporters
Enda Kenny is congratulated by his supporters

Ireland's new minority government will test democracy and the character of politicians, re-elected Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

The Fine Gael leader scraped into power at the fourth time of asking, 70 days on from one of the most divisive elections in the Republic's history.

The back-to-back success - a first for Mr Kenny's party - was achieved after weeks of negotiations secured a deal with decades-old adversaries Fianna Fail and a diverse group of independents.

The Taoiseach has opposition support, albeit fragile and for only three years, on a select number of issues such as suspending and reviewing water bills and easing unprecedented housing issues and homelessness.

"If economic survival was the urgent priority of the last government then using a strong economy to improve the lives, the quality of the lives of our people, must and will be the priority of the new government and that fundamental principle will be the bedrock of our policy programme," Mr Kenny said.

Among the new reforms will be the appointment of a Minister for Housing with increased powers. Health will also form key planks of policy while spending will run twice as fast as tax cuts.

In his victory speech in the Dail parliament Mr Kenny accepted very many people have not felt a revival in the economy in the six years since Ireland went bankrupt.

He said his minority government had been formed in "almost unprecedented circumstances" which created room for a new and inclusive democracy.

"Everyone will have the opportunity to play a constructive role as we work in partnership together to build a better Ireland," he said.

"It will be a great test of our democracy, of our character and indeed of this house, a test that I am convinced that we will pass."

The February 26 general election split the vote like never before and left the country locked in a political stalemate for 10 weeks.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the traditionally dominant parties who swapped power for generations and whose bitter enmity stems back to the Irish civil war, balked at pressure to form a "grand coalition".

Mr Kenny said the hung parliament thrown up by the election meant no party has a mandate to "instruct, force, direct or coerce" anyone else.

"We therefore must all work together in the best interests of all our people," he said.

Mr Kenny was re-elected Taoiseach by 59 votes to 49, largely thanks to the abstention of Fianna Fail.

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