Micheal Martin has been to many functions at the Clayton Hotel on Dublin's Burlington Road over the last decade.
ts large function room has been the venue for the annual Fianna Fail president's dinner for as long as anyone can remember. For years, grassroots members have paid for the privilege of a three-course meal, a late bar and a speech from Martin that usually contained several barbs at Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael.
Last Friday, he was back in the same venue, addressing a sparsely populated socially distanced room just moments after it was declared that the vast majority of Fianna Fail members - 74pc - had backed his unprecedented proposal to govern with Fine Gael and the Greens.
On the challenge ahead, he told those present that he wanted the next government to "create a better type of society and a better quality of life".
With his term time-limited to two-and-a-half years, he has no time to waste.
Martin's journey to the Taoiseach's office took a circuitous route and was by no means guaranteed after Fianna Fail's dismal general election campaign.
He got the deal over the line by, in the first instance, asking his parliamentary party to trust him after February's electoral setback. While some deputies privately briefed against him, and others felt Fianna Fail should reverse its opposition to coalition with Sinn Fein, Martin managed to convince the vast majority of the ranks that he could deliver the return of Fianna Fail to government after nine years out of power if he was given the chance.
Having secured the backing of his parliamentary party, he entrusted those harbouring ministerial ambitions to negotiate the deal with Fine Gael and the Greens. It was a smart move that ensured the buy-in of those thought to harbour ambitions to ultimately succeed him as leader, including Michael McGrath, Dara Calleary and Darragh O'Brien.
After five painstaking weeks of negotiations with Fine Gael and the Greens, the Fianna Fail team returned with a deal that Martin told them they had to sell to the members.
There were many tacit signals sent out that a close eye would be kept on deputies and how strong a Yes vote they could deliver from party members. The implication was that those that did well stood the best chance of getting into Cabinet. It was a canny move by Martin.
A plethora of Zoom calls followed, with some Fianna Fail TDs tweeting screengrabs of the video conferences just to show everyone they were really putting in the effort.
There was never much doubt that Fianna Fail members would approve the deal. Some TDs confidently predicted it would pass by as much as 80pc and in the end they weren't far off.
Instead, most of the concern in Fianna Fail last week was over the Green Party and whether its members would back the deal or torpedo it, leaving Fianna Fail's pathway to government obscured and Martin's future in serious jeopardy.
Senior figures also worried about their own political prospects if a deal was passed, with very few Cabinet posts available for Martin to appoint ministers to.
"I am going to sit in my office and hide," said one senior Fianna Fail TD who was hopeful but not overly optimistic at the Convention Centre yesterday. "It's like an election count day now - nothing you can do only sit and wait, take your clap on the back or kick in the arse, and shut your mouth either way."
The Greens' passage of the deal owed a lot to the ground game of party leader Eamon Ryan as well as party veterans such as former minister John Gormley, former chair Dan Boyle and current MEP Ciaran Cuffe. Deputy leader Catherine Martin played her part too - despite the awkwardness created by her husband, Francis Noel Duffy, opting to campaign against the deal.
There was also a strong 'get out the Yes vote' operation mounted by the new Green TDs who were involved in negotiating the deal, such as Ossian Smyth and Marc O Cathasaigh who hit the phones and ensured as many party members as possible were backing it.
This largely negated the impact of criticism of the deal by one its negotiators, Neasa Hourigan, and a letter co-signed by the Greens' Northern Ireland leader, Clare Bailey, three TDs, party chair Hazel Chu and dozens of councillors, former election candidates and members last weekend which called for a No vote.
The vocal campaign on the airwaves by some Green activists, like Cork councillor Lorna Bogue and former MEP candidate Saoirse McHugh, gave the impression the result would be tight. But seemingly that was never the case as the vast majority of Greens - 76pc in the end - favoured this arrangement. "The idea of 'there is no alternative' really got hold," said one party figure who wanted the deal rejected.
Like Fianna Fail, Fine Gael's result was never in doubt with a complex electoral college system ensuring the vote was weighted heavily toward the parliamentary party. Still, five as-yet unidentified Fine Gael TDs, senators and/or MEPs voted against the deal, while 43pc of the party's councillors also rejected the proposal, with local authority reps in Kerry and Mayo particularly vocal in recent weeks.
Despite a poor election outcome and a self-inflicted demotion to Tanaiste, Leo Varadkar seems right now to be as secure as Fine Gael leader as he was the day he was elected three years ago.
Most in the party expect him to return to the Taoiseach's office in two-and-a-half years' time and lead the party into the next general election in 2024 or 2025.
But there are dangerous times over the horizon for Varadkar as a result of the most severe culling of Cabinet ministers since Albert Reynolds earned the nickname of 'The Longford Slasher' for sacking eight senior Fianna Fail ministers in 1992.
The coalition arithmetic meant he had no choice, of course, but as one minister who was expecting the sack said last Friday: "He is going to have problems down the line. It's going to leave a big rump in the party, there's a lot of difficult days coming."
Varadkar used his initial Dail speech yesterday to lambast Sinn Fein's "rhetoric and spin about change". It was meat and drink to Fine Gael deputies, who could be heard muttering "hear, hear", but there will be difficult days ahead for the new Tanaiste.
For the new Taoiseach Micheal Martin, it was a day he will remember forever, a moment he described as "the greatest honour". But it was not without its challenges either. The public health restrictions meant his wife Mary and three children could not attend the proceedings at the Convention Centre.
Typical of Martin, he was not complaining either publicly or privately, but just getting on with it. To the occasional chagrin of his own staff, the work never stops with the Fianna Fail leader. Before he left the Clayton last Friday, a woman came over to congratulate him. "I'd love to give you a hug," she told Martin, who laughed and headed on his way. He will be hoping the public mood toward him is not dissimilar when he leaves office in December 2022.