Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have voted overwhelmingly to enter into a three-party coalition in Dublin which they say will “stand up” for Ireland at this time of crisis, but which republicans and socialists believe will only preserve the hegemony of a privileged minority.
The Green Party voted by 76 per cent to 24 per cent in favour of the programme for government while 74 per cent of Fianna Fáil members backed the deal. Fine Gael also endorsed the it strongly, with 80 per cent voting in favour.
Speculation that the Green Party would not secure the support of the necessary two-thirds majority of its membership because of its progressive-left ideology proved unfounded.
It will represent an extraordinary return to government for the Greens, a party wiped out by voters in 2011 after it supported the scandalised governments of former Fianna Fáil Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Bertie Ahern.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said there is a “sense of responsibility on us now because we do have a job to do”.
It is a surprising return to power also for Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who had long seemed hopelessly tainted by his involvement in those previous FF governments.
Martin said it had been a difficult process for his party, which is now entering into a government with the modern incarnation of its historic civil war foes of a century ago, Fine Gael.
“There were no wrong sides to this debate and I am proud of how our party engaged in this process,” he said.
Mr Martin, who is now set to be appointed Taoiseach on Saturday, said the vote was “unique” and “historic”.
Outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claimed Fine Gael had a “strong mandate” to enter government after the vote, despite coming in third place in February’s election behind Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.
“Fine Gael is going to enter a third term of government, and this new coalition, united and strong and up for the challenge,” he said.
Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar is destined for the Tánaiste’s office and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan can expect a senior ministry. The Greens are reportedly set to have four TDs at the cabinet table, a major sweetener for the party, with the remaining ministeries carved up between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
A special sitting of the Dáil will now proceed tomorrow in Dublin’s convention centre, where Micheál Martin is to be voted in as the new Taoiseach.
Under the coalition deal, he will hold the role until December 2022 wherein it will be rotated and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar will return to the position.
The centre is being used instead of Leinster House to accommodate all 160 TDs in the Dail and for social distancing purposes.
Sinn Féin’s deputy Dáil leader Pearse Doherty TD said the “two old parties” had “circled the wagons” to exclude Sinn Féin “and they are using the Green Party as a fig leaf to do this”.
“The reality is that the desire for change is even stronger now than it was in February. People know what it’s like to have Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in power together.
“At a time when Ireland needs ambition and big ideas, we have a Programme for Government that fails to deliver on affordable housing, on building up capacity in our health services, on getting people back to work and having enough to survive, on childcare, on the right to retire at sixty-five and on planning for Irish unity.
“Sinn Féin wanted to lead a Government for Change and we wanted to lead a government that will deliver. We will be equally determined in leading the Opposition.
“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will be faced with the most determined opposition they have ever seen because Sinn Féin will stand up for ordinary workers and families.
“We will continue to put forward solutions and we will continue to build support across Ireland to deliver the change that people want and deserve.”