In the second half of the potential five-year term, the government will be led by outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. His rival party, Fine Gael, stumbled to a third place in the February election, and seemed on track, most analysts at the time boasted, to opposition banks.
Instead, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will become government partners for the first time, ending almost a century of enmity originating on the opposite sides of Ireland’s brutal 1922-23 civil war.
“This is as remarkable as it gets. These two parties were always on the drawn daggers. They could never really cross the gap, ”said David Farrell, professor of politics at University College Dublin. Imagine in the United States if Republicans and Democrats agreed to share the presidency with each other. It’s so dramatic. “
Varadkar, rising to speak in support of Martin, noted that this marked the moment “that the politics of civil war has ended in our parliament.”
The Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin left power, and instead of rising to fill the gap as opposition leader in Ireland’s parliament.
He stepped over Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to claim the most votes in the February elections. But Sinn Féin didn’t make the most of it because it had too few candidates in Ireland’s multi-seat constituencies. This left the result very balanced, with Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil in 37 seats, and Fine Gael in 35.
Governing effectively requires the command of at least 80 votes in Ireland’s 160-seat parliament. This meant recruiting the left Greens, who won 12 seats, in what will be a tripartite coalition with 84 legislators, enough to pass the legislation.
The nearly 2,000 rank and file members of the Greens voted vigorously to join the coalition on Friday night, allowing Martin’s election the next day.
The special session could not be held at Leinster House, Ireland’s parliamentary building, as it was too narrow in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, lawmakers sanitized their hands in the lobby of the Dublin Convention Center, then spread out to the far corners of its 1,995-seat auditorium.
After the vote, Martin thanked Varadkar for leading the first stage of Ireland’s fight against the coronavirus. More than 1,700 people have died from COVID-19 in the nation of 4.9 million.
“We are meeting outside of our chamber due to a historical pandemic that has affected Ireland and the world,” Martin told lawmakers. “The fight against the virus is not over. We must be prepared to face any new wave ”.
Martin then traveled to the palatial residence of President Michael D. Higgins, Ireland’s head of ceremonial state, to receive his official seal. He will name his cabinet appointments on Saturday night.