In June 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy the President of the United States, made a memorable visit to Ireland, the land from which his forefathers had emigrated a mere two generations before. With his Irish Catholic roots, Kennedy's election to the most powerful office in the democratic world was in itself a sensation, both in America and Ireland.
His state visit to the Republic was a recognition of the Irish people's singular contribution to the creation and development of the United States.
It was also a recognition of the achievement of the Irish Republic, evolving in just over 40 years from being a part of the British empire, into an independent and confident democratic state. His televised visit captured the public imagination and instilled in many great pride in the achievement of this small, but successful democratic nation.
There was a similar pride in Irish democracy last Saturday morning in the stunning auditorium of the National Conference Centre, where Dail Eireann met in plenary session to elect Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin as Taoiseach. Dail Eireann had relocated to there from Leinster House because of the coronavirus restrictions. The session was formal and impressively dignified. Strong points were made for and against Martin's candidacy, but without the bear pit antics of the House of Commons.
It was a proud and very special moment for Micheal Martin as he received a comfortable majority of 93 votes to 63, which included nine independent TDs, as well as those of the three coalition parties.
Love him or hate him, Micheal Martin's election as Taoiseach was a tribute to his single mindedness and his sheer tenacity as Fianna Fail leader for the past nine difficult and frustrating years.
Whenever he took over the leadership in 2011, he was left with a decimated party, wiped out in Dublin and many traditional FF constituencies in rural Ireland. It was predicted by many commentators that he would be the only FF leader not to become Taoiseach.
With dogged determination, not to just simply survive, but to restore the fortunes of his party, he painstakingly rebuilt his party and its return to government, in just shy of a decade. He had to contend with flak within and without Fianna Fail, particularly for his 'confidence and supply arrangement' with Leo Varadkar's minority administration. But he withstood much criticism and persevered. For that he must be given great credit. A lesser man would have declined this herculean challenge. He took it on and he succeeded.
After five months of caretaker government, and five long weeks of hard political bargaining, a new tripartite coalition has been formed to tackle the immense challenges of Covid-19, the post-Brexit situation and climate change. In addition, there is the imminent onset of a potentially devastating worldwide economic recession.
The coalition has the best of five years to prove its mettle. If it fails, then the consequences for all three parties will be dire. But listening to the contributions of the three leaders, there is a clear sense of collective determination to serve the national interest and save the country from disaster.
It was in the national interest that the ancient rivals jettisoned the lingering antagonisms and ghosts of the bitter and fratricidal civil war of 1922-1923, to bring this government into being.
Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar noted that this new government marked the ending of the civil war inside the Dail. And incoming Taoiseach Micheal Martin pointedly stated "republicanism does not belong to one party". Acknowledging this point, he requested, that the portraits of both De Valera and Collins be placed side by side in the new Taoiseach's office.
The wannabe Taoiseach, Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald, was reminiscent of the jilted bride, Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Mantra-like she kept repeating the word "change". For Mary Lou "change" had been denied by the so-called collusion of FF and FG , entering into a Faustian pact with the Greens. "Change" by her definition, seemed to simply mean the inclusion of SF in power and their access to the Mercs and perks of office.
Contrary to Sinn Fein's criticism, this new government is truly a government of historic change, firstly by bringing both civil war parties together and secondly by establishing a new and deeper ecological policy direction for Ireland based on a radical Green agenda.
Far from being more of the same, this administration therefore could be, in policy terms, the most transformative coalition ever to take office in the south.
It is a great tribute to the maturity and ingenuity of the Irish political system, that out of the deadlock of the February's inconclusive general election, a new and stable administration has successfully emerged to give much needed strong leadership to the Republic for the next five problematic years.