Ireland's new government: A shameful marriage of convenience

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is the new 26 County Taoiseach with 93 votes in favour, 63 against and three abstentions.

That vote took place on Saturday 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, and added: “I have to tell them that you will no longer get it all your own way, and that day is all over,”

Sinn Féin had actually won the February general election, a proof that there was an appetite for change, and a mandate for the republican party to deliver it. However cheap interests prevailed at the expense of the will of the people.