Micheal Martin set to be elected Irish Taoiseach

Ireland’s new premier is set to be elected later after political rivals agreed to form an historic governing coalition.

Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail won the most seats in February’s inconclusive general election and his accession to the position of Taoiseach represents the culmination of 30 years in mainstream political life.

Detailed negotiations on an agreement on shared priorities with Fine Gael and the smaller Green Party have been delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

Firm targets for reducing carbon emissions and encouraging sustainable transport as well as helping the country recover from economic harm caused by infection restrictions will be among the new administration’s priorities.

On Saturday morning the Irish Dail parliament will meet in the unusual surroundings of a glass-fronted convention centre on Dublin’s River Liffey.

A full sitting of all 160 public representatives elected in February is envisaged and the temporary change of venue from Leinster House is to enable social distancing.

They are expected to nominate Mr Martin for Taoiseach then he will travel to meet Irish President Michael D Higgins at Dublin Castle to receive his seal of office.

Ministers are also due to be appointed later on Saturday.

Mr Martin will take over the role of Irish premier from Leo Varadkar in an historic reconciliation of a political feud with Fine Gael dating back to the foundation of the state a century ago.

Fine Gael are due to retrieve the Taoiseach’s role at the end of next year under the terms of the coalition agreement.

The two larger parties needed the support of the Greens to have a working majority in the Irish parliament, equating to around 80 seats, underpinning an extended period in office.

After weeks of talks, proposals on coalition were put to party memberships and results declared on Friday.

Fine Gael resoundingly endorsed them with 80% in favour. Fianna Fail recorded 74%.

The Greens’ support was the subject of speculation as it consulted its members but 76% decided in favour.

Among the first tasks of the Irish Government will be to renew legislation enabling the non-jury Special Criminal Court to continue dealing with serious organised crime in the Republic.

The new Government will be faced with the challenge of recovering from the coronavirus crisis
The new Government will be faced with the challenge of recovering from the coronavirus crisis (Brian Lawless/PA)

The effect of Brexit and rebuilding an economy plunged by the virus into what some commentators believed will be one of the worst ever recessions will also be pressing challenges.

Sinn Fein won the popular vote in last winter’s proportional representation election through an appeal to the young and buoyed by anger at the cost of housing and flaws in the health system.

It did not run enough candidates to fully translate votes into seats and was unable to form a “coalition of the left” with other parties of similar views but will now lead the opposition.

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