Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has received his seal of office from President Mary McAleese at Aras An Uachtarain this afternoon following his election as Taoiseach of the 26-County state. He received 117 votes to 27 at the first sitting of the new Dublin parliament.
Mr Kenny was supported by his own party and his coalition partners, the Labour Party. He was opposed by Sinn Fein and most of the independents, with Fianna Fail abstaining.
Mr Kenny thanked those present for the honour bestowed on him.
“Our lives and our futures are predicated on one thing - truth. I am entering into a covenant with the Irish people today. Our new government will tell the people the truth, no matter how difficult that may be,” the Taoiseach said.
“I believe the old ways, the old politics damaged us not just financially but emotionally and psychologically... Our programme for government is fair and is truly radical. We will achieve our objectives working side by side with the Irish people.
“Let us believe in our future. Let us lift up our heads and turn our faces to the sun and hang out our brightest colours. We will make our nation proud, prosperous and respected again.”
Among those making their maiden speeches today was the Sinn Fein President and TD for Louth, Gerry Adams.
He said his party opposed the nomination of a government that is prepared to sell important state assets, introduce water charges and property taxes.
But he joked that it was “nothing personal” and went on to wish Mr Kenny and the government well.
“We will not oppose the government just for the sake of it. If by fluke positive proposals are put forward we will support them,” he said.
He also attacked the centrist Labour for going into government with a right-wing party, and said it wasn’t surprising Fianna Fail didn’t oppose the nomination “considering they proposed the [new coalition’s] programme for government”.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was forced to share the frontbench of the Opposition with Mr Adams after a ‘walk of shame’ to vacate the government benches.
The breakdown of the parties in the new parliament is: Fine Gael 76, Labour 37, Fianna Fail 20, Sinn Fein 14, and Others 19.
There are now effectively three main Opposition groups at Leinster House after 16 Independents officially decided to form a ‘technical group’ last night.
Veteran independent Finian McGrath, right-wing newspaper editor Shane Ross and Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party will act as spokespersons for the makeshift group. It also includes Roscommon maverick Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, property developer Mick Wallace, inner-city campaigner Maureen O’Sullivan, former Fianna Fail TD Mattie McGrath and radical socialist Richard Boyd-Barrett.
Mr Kenny nominated party colleague Sean Barrett for the position of Ceann Comhairle [speaker of the house].
Speaking as the Sinn Fein TDs arrived at Leinster House for the first sitting of the new Dublin parliament, Mr Adams said the Fine Gael/Labour Party Programme for Government represents more of the same failed policies which were just rejected by the electorate.
Deputy Adams said Sinn Fein will provide strong and effective opposition to the new Government.
“Sinn Fein is entering this Dail with an enhanced mandate and in greater numbers. We will provide stoic and determined opposition in the Dail,” he said.
“The policies brought forward by Fine Gael and Labour in their Programme for Government represent more of the same, a continuation of the policies of the previous Fianna Fail led Government which were roundly rejected in the election.
“Sinn Fein will put forward realistic proposals in this Dail to deal with the current economic mess, to create jobs and to protect public services.
“We will provide strong and effective opposition to the new government.”
Mr Kenny will shortly appoint his new cabinet, which will include ten Fine Gael ministers and five Labour Party ministers.
Current Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is expected to take on a new foreign affairs and trade brief, as well as becoming Tanaiste.
Fine Gael’s Michael Noonan is widely expected to get the key finance portfolio, while Labour is tipped for the Attorney General post, giving the smaller party potentially six seats at the Cabinet table.
Other Fine Gael TDs tipped for a ministry include Programme for Government negotiators Phil Hogan and Alan Shatter, as well as Richard Bruton, Leo Varadkar, Sean Barrett, James Reilly, Simon Coveney and Jimmy Deenihan.
Labour hopefuls include former leaders Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn, Roisin Shortall and Brendan Howlin, with the party’s finance spokesman, Joan Burton, expected to get a new finance brief with responsibility for expenditure and public sector reform.
Further details in tomorrow’s issue.