Kenny tenders resignation after first Dáil meeting

House to return on March 22nd and April 6th as talks on forming government go on

With Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael unwilling to enter a coalition there is no obvious way to form a government for the 32nd Dáil, so what happens next? Fiach Kelly reports.

 

Enda Kenny has tendered his resignation as Taoiseach at Aras an Uachtaráin. He will remain as Taoiseach in a caretaker capacity until a successor is elected.

Earlier the first meeting of the 32nd Dáil adjourned after appointing a new Ceann Comhairle and failing to elect a new taoiseach.

The Dáil will return on March 22nd and again on April 6th while talks on the formation of a new government continue.

There were heated exchanges in an extended row over what would be debated and voted on when the House resumes. Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty called for a debate and vote on the abolition of Irish Water and water charges and said this was what the people had voted for.

Newly elected Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said however that what he was seeking “departs completely” from the process agreed to a process that had not even been debated.

In a series of votes on a new taoiseach, Mr Kenny, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin ledaer Gerry Adams and Richard Boyd Barrett of the Anti-Austerity Alliance- People Before Profit were all defeated.

Mr Kenny lost out in his bid for re-election by 94 votes to 57.

After the vote, Mr Kenny told the House he and the outgoing cabinet would continue to carry out their duties and work hard in the interest of the country.

Labour’s seven TDs voted with Fine Gael’s 50 TDs in support of Mr Kenny.

Mr Martin received 43 votes, Mr Adams 24, including the 23 Sinn Féin TDs and Independent TD Seamus Healy, and Mr Boyd Barrett received nine.

Stability

In an address to the House, Tánaiste Joan Burton cited Spain’s 20 per cent unemployment rate and said Ireland could not afford a similar stalemate in forming a government as happened there. She said stability was vital now.

While calling on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to form a coalition, she said there was also “a real risk that economic policy would veer to the right and social progress would be limited, if at all”.

Referring to the Labour Party’s decimation, she said the party had in the past provided principled opposition. When it went into Government in 2011 she said Labour put the country first and “I have no regrets” about that despite the losses.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan it was time for civil war to end as he appealed to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to form a coalition.

He said the Right had to learn that “business has to know how to show a soul and social responsibility and the Left has to know how to create wealth to pay for public services”.

He said “we will not be voting for any Taoiseach today” but suggested to those who did not to miss this historic opportunity to show some leadership on climate change and provide a new economic model that was socially just.

Mr Kenny called for TDs to intensify efforts to form a “lasting and durable government”.

“As Taoiseach, and leader of the largest party in the house, I am fully committed to working over the coming weeks to ensure that the people get the government that they need and that they deserve and that they have given their verdict on,” he said.

Mr Kenny said a substantial number of elected representatives had no interest in taking power, but claimed options remain on the table for forming a new government.

Row

After the votes, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Ó Fearghaíl appeared to be preventing the issue of water charges coming before the House, after all the talk about Dáil reform.

The Ceann Comhairle described her comments as “deeply cynical but I hear what you’re saying”.

He said that under standing orders it was the Taoiseach’s prerogative to set the business of the Dáil and he was advised that new matters could not be brought forward.

Mr O Fearghaíl told dissenting TDs: “If you could (were permitted to raise the issues) I’d be more than willing and anxious to facilitate you.”

During the row Mr Kenny said there had been agreement that there would be statements on the EU leaders’ council meeting and on the meeting of the EU Agriculture Ministers meeting.

He said there would be statements on housing and homelessness.

Mr Kenny said “these are three substantial issues which will allow members extra time meeting from 10.30am in the House”, on March 22nd.

Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy sought a debate and vote on water charges and an extension of the time for a debate on homelessness and housing.

But Mr Ó Fearghaíl said “I will not facilitate you in acting contrary to the current set of standing orders”.

As tempers frayed, the Ceann Comhairle insisted that Mr Murphy “kindly resume your seat” but allowed him to make a point of order on a technicality.

The Ceann Comhairle called a vote to agree the next Dáil business would include debates on the EU council meetings and on housing and homelessness.

In the first Dáil vote not related to the election of a Taoiseach, the House agreed the proposal by 100 votes to 34.