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Enda Kenny re-elected as Ireland's Taoiseach

Published 06/05/2016

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is hoping to win the vote
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is hoping to win the vote

Enda Kenny has been re-elected Ireland's Taoiseach, taking power for a successive term and leading his Fine Gael party into a minority government.

Mr Kenny scraped over the line at the fourth time of asking - and 70 days out from the election - after securing the support of a diverse group of independents and striking deals with opposition party Fianna Fail.

His success makes him the first Fine Gael leader in history to secure two terms in power back to back.

"The circumstances of today are of course very different from those of five years ago when Ireland was in deep crisis, when our country's very survival was in doubt," he said.

But Mr Kenny said he accepted very many people have not felt the economy picking up in the years since.

"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," he said.

He will now lead a minority government after traditional adversaries in Fianna Fail - enemies since the civil war 90 years ago - agreed to prop up his administration by abstaining in the crucial vote and supporting a selection of policies including on water bills and housing.

Talks on the deal to put Mr Kenny back in office went down to the wire with the vote for Taoiseach delayed by more than an hour as independents negotiated on ministerial jobs.

The full cabinet will be announced tonight.

Mr Kenny was elected by 59 votes to 49.

He told the Dail parliament that the minority government had been formed in "almost unprecedented circumstances".

Outgoing coalition partners Fine Gael and Labour took a hammering in February's general election, which opened up an unprecedented split in the Irish electorate.

Weeks of talks led to a number of concessions for Fianna Fail and an accord struck last weekend at Trinity College, which is to be reviewed at the end of 2018.

Two factions of Independents - known as the Independent Alliance and the rural alliance - were then pulled in.

Not all remained in their respective blocs.

Michael Fitzmaurice, a Roscommon Galway TD and former Turf Cutters and Contractors Association leader, and John Halligan, from Waterford, who had been vying for increased cardiac care services in his constituency, both refused to support Mr Kenny at the last minute.

Negotiations with others were said to have gone down to the wire as ministerial appointments were debated.

Two other independents, Katherine Zappone, a gay and women's rights campaigner, and Michael Lowry, a former cabinet colleague of Mr Kenny's, had declared their support weeks ago.

Following the vote Mr Kenny travelled to see President Michael D Higgins to receive his seal of office before formally announcing the new cabinet at a special sitting of the Dail on Friday evening.

Ireland has been locked in a political stalemate since the February 26 general election split the vote like never before.

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.

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

Attention is already being focused on how long a new minority government will last.

Under the arrangement, Fine Gael will have to rule and Fianna Fail oppose without either of them undermining the other too much while the third biggest party, Sinn Fein, will be looking to steal more ground from their foes on all sides.

Mr Kenny said his minority government was committed to working with all politicians in the Dail and the responsibilities will be shared by all as "never before".

"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."

Mr Kenny said his new government had a plan for a more caring, fairer and more prosperous Ireland with a belief in the enormous potential of the Irish people and country.

"The new government will be driven by a firm belief that good politics can help to realise all of that potential in the interest of all our people all over the country," he said.

Despite giving Mr Kenny understated support, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin attacked his minority government.

"The damage of regressive and divisive policies in recent years has been significant," he said.

"The new government is not committed to the scale of comprehensive and urgent action which we believe is needed. In many areas the programme for government represents a repackaging of current policies and bland aspiration rather than a radical commitment to action.

"Policy on health remains as incoherent as ever and specific actions on most areas are limited. Pushing for movement on these areas will form our priority in every part of our work."

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said his party will be the real opposition over the term of the government.

"The joint Fine Gael-Fianna Fail programme is masterclass in waffle and bluster. No real ambition. No big ideas. No costings. Little real detail," he said.

"Never was so much negotiated for so long, for so little."

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