President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has officially confirmed Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as the new 26 County Taoiseach at Áras an Uachtarán this afternoon after he was elected Taoiseach by 93 votes to 63, with three abstentions.
That vote took place at Dublin’s Convention Centre, where the Dáil was historically gathered for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic, and assembled in a manner to allow for social distancing.
Martin had the support of his own party, his coalition partners, Fine Gael and the Green Party, and nine Independent TDs.
Addressing the Dáil, Mr Martin said was no question about the new government’s most urgent work, which was to “move forward rapidly to secure a recovery to benefit all of our people”.
He said Covid-19 “is the fastest moving recession ever to hit our country and to overcome it we must act with urgency and ambition”.
The new Taoiseach admitted the three parties came from very different traditions.
“We do not and could not be expected to agree on everything. However, we have been able to agree on core democratic principles and on a balanced and comprehensive programme.”
The Independent TDs who supported Martin were Marian Harkin, Michael McNamara, Noel Grealish and Michael Lowry, Peter Fitzpatrick, Matt Shanahan, Richard O’Donoghue, Verona Murphy and Cathal Berry. Independents Denis Naughten, Mattie MGrath and Carol Nolan abstained.
Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats, People Before Profit, Aontú, Solidarity and Rise TDs, along with Independents Joan Collins, Michael Fitzmaurice, Catherine Connolly, Michael and Danny Healy-Rae and Thomas Pringle, opposed his election.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that her party would provide the most effective opposition in the history of the State.
“Today’s marriage of convenience is born of necessity, not ambition -- to buy time, to keep others out, to keep others in their place. For the political establishment it’s their way or no way,” she said.
“I have to tell them that you will no longer get it all your own way, and that day is all over,” she said.
Sinn Féin’s surge in the February general election proved there was an appetite for change, and a mandate for her party to deliver it, she said.
“Faced with the prospect of losing their grip on power, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have circled the wagons. They excluded Sinn Féin and the voices of more than half a million people from government talks,” she said.
She said the Programme for Government agreed between the three parties had “dodged” the key issues of the general election campaign -- and that her party would scrutinise the coalition on them.
“Fairness, equality, decency -- these are the things that will shape Sinn Féin’s determination to shape the most effective opposition ever seen in this state.”
Mr Martin has now returned to Government Buildings, where he will choose his Cabinet. alongside his two partners, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan - choose his Cabinet.
Ironically, the first order of business for the new government will be to to renew the authoritarian ‘Offences Against the State’ Act, which is due to expire on Monday. As a result, Mr Martin is being forced to urgently name his 11 nominees to the Seanad, enabling the upper chamber to meet the Convention Centre with its full complement and vote to renewal the legislation.