Kenny vows to work with partners for better Ireland
Election of Taoiseach goes down to wire as Michael Fitzmaurice abstains on crucial vote
Enda Kenny has promised to work in partnership to build a better Ireland following his election as Taoiseach yesterday during a day of drama at Leinster House.
Mr Kenny’s election was in doubt until minutes before the vote as negotiations with Independent TDs faltered with Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice holding out for a relaxation of restrictions on turf cutting which are required under European law.
“I commit myself and the incoming Government to work in partnership with the elected Members of this House to devise and implement solutions to the many problems facing our people,” Mr Kenny told the Dáil after his election.
Mr Fitzmaurice broke with his colleagues in the Independent Alliance and abstained on the vote for Taoiseach but the other five members of the group supported Mr Kenny who was elected by 59 votes to 49. Fianna Fáil’s 43 TDs abstained as did the Green Party, while Sinn Féin, Labour, AAA- PBP and a number of Independents voted against Mr Kenny.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the new Government could represent “a major turning point for Irish democracy” with “absolute power” shifting from ministers to parliament, he declared.
Describing it as “a new departure for Irish politics”, Mr Martin said it will require TDs to put aside “old assumptions and lazy conventions”, but, equally, it gives all of them “a duty to be active and constructive”.
Shane Ross is the group’s representative at Cabinet as Minister for Transport while Finian McGrath will also attend Cabinet as Minister with responsibility for disabilities although he will not be a full member.
Denis Naughten of the Rural Alliance has been appointed to cabinet as Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources while Katherine Zappone becomes Minister for Children.
There were some surprises among the Fine Gael members of Cabinet, the most notable being Leo Varadkar’s move from Health to Social Protection and the promotion from the backbenches of Dún Laoghaire TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor.
The big winners were Paschal Donohoe, who was promoted to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and Simon Harris who has been elevated to Cabinet as Minister for Health. Frances Fitzgerald was promoted to Tánaiste but remains Minister for Justice while Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan retained their posts.
Speaking in the Dáil after his election the Taoiseach said there was no place or function for political pessimism and no limit to political possibility.
He said there had been a palpable sense in all the talks over the past 70 days, including with those who decided not to not join the Government, that politics has changed. “I believe the 32nd Dáil will make a new collaborative approach not only with the partners of Government, but indeed, with the Opposition,” he said.