Irish parties reach deal on new government

Ireland’s Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green parties struck on Monday a deal to form a new coalition government that will end a months-long stalemate and is expected to make Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin prime minister, news wires reported. Fine Gael leader and current PM Leo Varadkar is expected to return as prime minister in 2022 for the second half of the government’s five-year term.

“The leaders have signed off on the draft programme for government and it will issue later this afternoon,” Fine Gael said in a statement cited by Reuters. “It’s a challenging time ahead economically as a result of Covid-19 but the programme for government does represent a new departure,” Martin told journalists after the talks.

Ireland has been in political deadlock since an inconclusive February election pushed historic rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fail together for the first time. The once dominant parties have swapped power throughout the nation’s history since emerging from opposing sides of Ireland’s 1920s civil war.

The centre-right pair need the Greens to reach a majority in the fractured parliament that cannot pass new laws, including upholding a €6.5bn package of support measures for coronavirus-hit businesses, until a new government is formed. 

The agreement must be ratified over the coming ten days or so by grassroot members from each party, with the smaller Greens requiring two-thirds support, a higher bar than the larger parties and which could yet scupper the deal.

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