Thursday 26 April 2018

Watch: Enda Kenny looks set to scrape in as Ireland's new Taoiseach with 59 votes

WATCH LIVE: Vote for Taoiseach takes place for the fourth time

Enda Kenny. Photo: Getty
Enda Kenny. Photo: Getty

Kevin Doyle, Niall O’Connor, John Downing, Barry Lennon and Philip Ryan

A FARCICAL situation developed in the Dáil today with the nomination for Taoiseach beginning without any of the Independents due to vote for Enda Kenny actually present.

Last minute talks aimed at securing their support were ongoing in Government Buildings while TDs from all of the House are given speaking time.

The move was seen as a delaying tactic while senior ministers Simon Coveney and Michael Noonan attempted to convince all members of the Independent Alliance to back Enda Kenny.

The Independents returned to the Dáil shortly after 1.45pm, almost two hours after the Dáil proceedings had begun.

Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin confirmed to the Dáil that his party will abstain when eventually the vote takes place this afternoon.

However, the Labour Party has completely severed its links to Fine Gael, with outgoing Tánaiste Joan Burton take huge swipes at her former coalition partners.

Enda Kenny has been re-elected as Taoiseach
Enda Kenny has been re-elected as Taoiseach

Dublin TD Noel Rock nominated Enda Kenny for Taoiseach for a fourth time since the election shortly after noon, telling the Dáil: “The urgency of now is to great to lose. It has been 70 days.”

There was laughter in the chamber as Mr Rock took to his feet to once again propose the Fine Gael leader as Taoiseach.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin gives the party's response to the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at Leinster House. Pictures:Arthur Carron
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin gives the party's response to the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at Leinster House. Pictures:Arthur Carron

He said: “We need a Taoiseach to match the challenges we have ahead. We need a Taoiseach to master the opportunities which we face.

“That can harness the great capabilities of this parliament. And always, always put this country first.”

He said Enda Kenny had led the country during the last five years of need and was now ready to take on the next challenge.

“We have capacity, we have opportunity, we have the ability to the best country in the world but we  also have challenges,” he said.

Mr Rock described the Irish nation as “a ship without a captain”.

“The ship cannot go on without a captain,” he said.

Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Tom Burke
Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Tom Burke

Also backing the candidature of Enda Kenny for Taoiseach, Junior Finance Minister, Simon Harris, said the Irish people had shown patience over the past 10 weeks of government negotiations.

The Wicklow Fine Gael TD said he was very hopeful there would be a government finally elected today.

"Today I hope we will see the creation of a new kind of partnership government," Mr Harris said. He said the Government's aim must be to create a strong economy and a fair society.

Deputy Harris added that the minority coalition will be made up of diverse political views. But he stressed that unity can come out of political diversity.

Micheál Martin told the Dáil that Fine Gael talks with Independents show how a Fianna Fáil Coalition with Mr Kenny's party would be about “sharing the spoils of power.”

The Fianna Fáil leader reiterated his party's right to criticise the government in the “confidence and supply” agreement he secured with Mr Kenny.

“This potentially represents, and I say potentially noting the absence of the Independent Alliance but that may change in the next few minutes, a new beginning,” he said. 

During his speech Mr Martin took credit for the suspension of water charges but added: “Water policy is not the most important policy facing the country and has taken too much time.”

To laughter he hit out at the Labour Party for continuing to argue that charges should remain, saying: “Alan Kelly suffering from the withdrawal of the drug of his choice.”

He also took a swipe at Sinn Féin saying: “The very people who have condemned us for allowing Fine Gael back into government spent two months trying to force us into government with them.”

He said Gerry Adams and his deputies “believe in finding problems to exploit. We believe in finding problems to resolve”.

In his Dáil speech Gerry Adams was hugely critical of the deal done by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

“Never was so much negotiated for so long, for so little,” he said.

In a sarcastic tone, the Sinn Féin leader described the deal as “a wonderful job of work”.

He also hit out at the “Enda-dependents” who he said were the most vocal opponents of Fine Gael and Labour and “yet here they are” prepared to back Mr Kenny.

Mr Adams described Sinn Féin as the “real leaders of the Opposition”.

The Labour Party is set to vote against Enda Kenny’s re-election as Taoiseach, with outgoing Tánaiste Joan Burton describing the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as a “tawdry” one that puts “at risk the progress made since Fianna Fáil collapsed the economy”.

Ms Burton said she had been part of governments with both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that had a “unity of purpose” but “without trust the government really has a very limited prospect”.

“This coalition of convenience if very, very different,” she said.

“Fianna Fail will effectively have their boot on the throat of the Taoiseach meaning they can push through whatever they like and collapse the arrangement whenever they choose.”

She said the only reason Fianna Fáil had signed up to a minority government deal with Fine Gael was “to protect your political hide from Sinn Féin”.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger said she has never seen an incoming Taoiseach look so unhappy.

Ms Coppinger said there will be “collective groan” from people around the country who did not want Mr Kenny to return as Taoiseach.

She said the suspension of water charges was not due to pressure from Fianna Fáil but rather down to the anti-water charge movement.

No show

Meanwhile, Independent Alliance has not shown up in Dail chamber for the crucial fourth vote for Taoiseach.

The alliance led by Shane Ross is still locked in government formation talks with Fine Gael’s negotiation team with a vote expected by 1.30pm.

Roscommon Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice has at the last minute decided not to vote for Mr Kenny as Taoiseach.

A source close to Mr Fitzmaurice said: “he’s out”.

It remains unclear if the other five members of the alliance will vote for the Fine Gael leader later today.

The other members of the alliance are Sean Canney, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, John Halligan and Finian McGrath.

Mr Moran earlier today said the alliance would vote as a group.

The political grouping is thrashing out the final details of the programme for government with acting Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Mr Kenny’s economic advisor Andrew McDowell.

Acting Government chief whip Paul Kehoe told the Dail the spokespeople of all the main political parties and groupings will be given time to speak before a vote for Taoiseach

The move was seen as a time buying exercise as the government negotiations continued in Government Buildings.

Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae is understood to be abstaining in today's vote for Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny needs to win the support of six Independent TDs.

Meanwhile, it’s emerged Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath has confirmed that he will not be voting for Enda Kenny during today’s Dáil sitting.

The Tipperary TD thanked the Fine Gael negotiating team, saying: “We achieved a lot but not enough.”

“I said I would come and engage and try get a fairer system of government for the people of Tipperary as well as the whole country.

“We have had a huge input into the Programme for Government. Something I never thought I’d achieve,” he told Tipp FM.

He was particularly critical of Fine Gael’s commitment to hold a citizens convention on the future of the Eighth Amendment, saying it was “a talking shop to chip away at us legislators”.

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