Micheal Martin hails election as Taoiseach ‘greatest honour’
Incoming Taoiseach Micheal Martin has hailed his new role as “one of the greatest honours which anyone can receive”.
The Fianna Fail leader was elected Taoiseach of the 33rd Irish parliament, with 93 TDs voting in favour and 63 against. Three TDs abstained.
Mr Martin used his inaugural speech to pay tribute to the health workers and those who have died in the Covid-19 pandemic.
He told the Dail, sitting in Dublin’s Convention Centre: “We are meeting away from our permanent chamber because of a historic pandemic which has struck Ireland and the rest of the world.
“As of today, 2,278 people on this island have lost their lives.
“Many thousands more have fought a long struggle to recover. There is no community, no part of our country, which has escaped untouched.
“In the last three-and-a-half months, enormous progress has been made in controlling the spread of the virus and treating those who have become sick.
“The struggle against the virus is not over. We must continue to contain its spread. We must be ready to tackle any new wave, and we must move forward rapidly to secure a recovery to benefit all of our people.”
As he hailed the honour of being elected Taoiseach, Mr Martin paid tribute to his wife and children, and said he is proud of his working class roots.
He said: “Most of all I want to thank my family and my community. Without them I could have achieved nothing.”
Earlier, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said Civil War politics has ended in Ireland’s parliament, after political rivals agreed to form the historic governing coalition.
Mr Martin’s Fianna Fail won the most seats in February’s inconclusive general election.
Mr Varadkar said: “I believe Civil War politics ended a long time ago in our country, but today Civil War politics ends in our parliament.
“Two great parties coming together with another great party, the Green Party, to offer what this country needs, a stable government for the betterment of our country and for the betterment of our world.
“I look forward to the privilege of serving in government with those two parties, as does my party.
“For my own party Fine Gael, it’s an opportunity, a third term in government, something we’ve never been able to do before, three consecutive terms.
“The chance to protect what has been achieved and secured over the past nine years and also a second chance, an opportunity to get right some of the things that we didn’t get right in the years gone by.
“I’m up for that challenge.”
Proposing Mr Martin for Taoiseach, Fianna Fail TD Norma Foley said it was an honour to nominate him.
“When we look at the record of Deputy Micheal Martin you must give credit to the man. When we look at his record in government and his time in office, he was a progressive and reforming minister for education and foreign affairs.
“Deputy Micheal Martin has a valiant record of delivering for this free Republic.
“The programme for government agreed by Fianna Fail is a progressive programme for change. Deputy Micheal Martin has the talent and tenacity we need to lead the country with distinction.”
However, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said February was the change election, and her party won more votes than any other.
She claimed Fianna Fail and Fine Gael conspired against Sinn Fein to exclude it from government, and the voices of more than half a million people who voted for them.
She described the coalition as a “marriage of convenience”, and added: “Faced with the prospect of losing their grip on power, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have circled the wagons.”
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.
The Dail met in the unusual surroundings of the glass-fronted convention centre on Dublin’s River Liffey.
The temporary change of venue from Leinster House was to enable social distancing and to allow all 160 public representatives to sit.
Mr Martin travelled to Aras an Uachtarain, where he received his Seal of Office from President Michael D Higgins.
After selecting his new Cabinet during a series of meetings at Government Buildings, Mr Martin unveiled his top table to the Dail on Saturday evening.
– Leo Varadkar as Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
– Simon Coveney remains as Minister for Foreign Affairs
– Paschal Donohoe remains as Minister for Finance
– Helen McEntee is the new Minister for Justice
– Heather Humphreys is the new Minister for Social Protection
– Simon Harris is the new Minister for Higher Education
– Stephen Donnelly is the new Minister for Health.
– Darragh O’Brien is new the Minister for Housing
– Norma Foley is the new Education Minister
– Barry Cowen is the new Minister for Agriculture
– Michael McGrath is the new Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
– Eamon Ryan is the Minister for Climate Action
– Catherine Martin is the Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht.
– Roderic O’Gorman is the Minister for Children, Disability Equality and Integration
– Dara Calleary will take up the position of Government Chief Whip
– Paul Gallagher is Attorney General.
The Cabinet ministers will hold their first meeting later after they receive their seals of office.
Mr Martin has taken over from Mr Varadkar in a 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 2022 under the terms of the coalition agreement.