Martin set to be Ireland's next taoiseach as government coalition deal agreed
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is set to become Ireland’s next premier as a deal was struck to form a new coalition government.
The position of taoiseach will be rotated under the terms of the historic draft programme for government agreed by Mr Martin, current Irish premier and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.
Mr Martin is set to occupy the post until December 2022.
The three leaders have finalised the deal to form a coalition government more than four months on from February’s inconclusive general election.
The draft deal, which comes after two months of negotiations between the parties, will now have to be endorsed by their parliamentary teams, before being put to their respective memberships for approval.
It will be presented to the parliamentary parties at 5.30pm on Monday, however the outcome of votes among the wider memberships are not expected to be known until the end of next week.
The draft programme for government includes a national recovery plan to focus on repairing the economic damage sustained by the coronavirus pandemic.
The agreed text says Ireland is at a “defining moment”.
“We face urgent challenges which touch every community,” reads the document.
“In the space of a few short months our world has turned upside down.
“Lives have been lost and hearts broken, and our lives and livelihoods have been changed utterly. In striving together against something which threatens us all, we have shown we can surprise ourselves – adapting quickly, building new alliances and collaborating in ways we never expected.
“All to realise a common purpose: our common future.
“Covid-19 has presented the global community with a terrible set of challenges to add to the ongoing climate and biodiversity emergency.
“In this Programme for Government we are asserting our ambition to meet these challenges, repair the damage that has been inflicted by the pandemic, and take the renewed spirit arising from these challenging times and translate it into action.”
Mr Varadkar confirmed on Monday morning that the position of taoiseach would be rotated and he indicated Mr Martin would be the first incumbent.
The Fine Gael leader said he had not decided what post he would assume in the new cabinet.
Fianna Fail won the most seats in the election with 38, to Sinn Fein’s 37 and Fine Gael’s 35. The Greens won 12.
Sinn Fein won the popular vote but its efforts to form a left-wing coalition government foundered, as it was unable to secure the requisite 80 seats to secure a majority in the Dail parliament.
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – parties that have been historic foes since their formation from opposing sides of Ireland’s Civil War of the 1920s – are now set to enter government together for the first time.
The Greens have been persuaded to be the third party in the coalition – thus securing a working majority – after negotiating a number of environmental concessions in the draft programme for government.
“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 draft government will also see a plan to increase the state pension age to 67 deferred pending the outcome of a commission to examine the issue.
There will also be no increase in income tax or the Universal Social Charge in the next Budget.
The Greens have demanded a commitment to cut carbon emissions by 7% annually over the five years of the government and also a ban on the importation of gas extracted by fracking.
Mr Varadkar, who has continued as taoiseach since the election, added: “It’s a good package overall. Now we need to make it happen.”
Speaking outside Government Buildings in Dublin on Monday, Mr Martin said: “The major issues have been resolved and obviously we’ll present the programme for government to our parliamentary parties, that’s important, and then out to the membership for ballot.
“But I think the programme as it’s now formulated does represent a significant new departure in terms of public policy, particularly in relation to housing, health, education and climate change itself, because I think it is important.”
Mr Ryan said commitments in the programme would only be valuable if they were delivered on.
“I think people get over the top in terms of ‘we got this line in a programme’ – you’ve got to actually deliver it,” he said.
“Now having the programme gives us the opportunity to try and do it, so that’s what they are voting on.
“It’s the chance to deliver for the Irish people as best we can.”
The programme stated that it was possible to bring together the “best thinking from three distinct parties, who differ fundamentally in terms of history”.
“It creates a vision for reform and renewal that can help Ireland recover and thrive,” it added.
“It will not be easy and this programme does not offer easy solutions.
“Not everything will be achieved within the lifetime of this Government. But as we begin to make some transformative changes for our country we recognise that these steps have the potential to deliver radical change.
“This Government will be a genuine partnership between all involved and the policies outlined reflect a shared desire to work together and a mutual respect for each other’s policies, beliefs and values.”