Ireland’s two dominant centre-right parties have agreed to form a coalition for the first time – meaning Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will hand power over to Fianna Fail.
The deal will also put the Green Party – headed by Eamon Ryan – at the centre of policymaking and end a political stalemate triggered by an inconclusive February election.
The deal, which must be ratified by members of the three parties, is expected to make Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin prime minister in the first half of the government’s five-year term before Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar returns in 2022.
‘The leaders have signed off on the draft programme for government,’ the parties said in a coordinated statement.
The deal, which must be ratified by members of the three parties, is expected to make Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin prime minister in the first half of the government’s five-year term before Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar (pictured) returns in 2022
Varadkar told journalists on Monday that the post of prime minister would rotate, but declined to confirm widespread expectations that Martin would serve first.
Ireland has been in political deadlock since the February 8 vote pushed historic rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fail together.
The two have swapped power since they emerged from opposing sides of Ireland’s 1920s civil war.
‘This is an agreement that, from my point of view and certainly from the point of view of the country, is going to be a good one and one that is very much in line with Fine Gael’s values and principles,’ Mr Varadkar said as he attended an event in Dublin on Monday morning.
The pair need the Greens to reach a majority in the fractured parliament to pass new laws, including a 6.5 billion euro ($7.3 billion) package to help businesses hit by the coronavirus.
Left: Fianna Fail’s leader Micheal Martin is now set to become Ireland’s next premier. Right: The deal will also put the Green Party – headed by Eamon Ryan – at the centre of policymaking
The agreement must be ratified in the next 10 days or so by grass root members from each party.
The smaller Greens need to secure two-thirds support, a higher bar than the larger parties that could yet scupper the deal.
‘It’s a challenging time ahead economically as a result of COVID but the programme for government does represent a new departure,’ Martin told journalists after the talks.
His finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the document committed to moving towards a broadly balanced budget, without setting a target date.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on a bus in Dublin city centre today encouraging passengers to wear face masks on public transport
Monday’s newspapers declared the Greens the winners. The Irish Independent’s front page headline called it ‘A green deal to remould the shape of our politics.’
Green negotiator Roderic O’Gorman said his party secured a seven per cent average annual cut in greenhouse gas emissions with a fixed annual carbon budget for different sectors, while infrastructure spending would focus on public transport.
If ratified, the deal will make Sinn Fein, which wants Northern Ireland and Ireland to unite, the main opposition party for the first time.
The former political wing of the Irish Republican Army surged to 37 seats in the 160-seat parliament, the same as Fianna Fail and two more than Fine Gael.