Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have formally endorsed a programme for government which paves the way for a new administration to be formed tomorrow, 140 days after the general election. The Green Party, which had the highest bar for ratification, voted in favour of the deal by 76% to 24%. The Fine Gael electoral college, which gave TDs, Senators and MEPS a 50 % weighting, was always going to ensure it backed the deal and overall the party endorsed the deal by a margin of 4:1. Fianna Fáil also comfortably voted in favour with 74% of its membership giving their seal of approval.
The vote of confidence in the programme for government will also increase the likelihood of Eamon Ryan retaining his leadership of the Green Party which is also being contested next month by his deputy leader, Catherine Martin. Both will be appointed to cabinet tomorrow along with a third Green TD.
However, it is Micheál Martin who emerges as the biggest winner from this evening’s results. He secures his leadership of the Fianna Fáil party, at least until December 2022 when the role of Taoiseach is set to rotate to Leo Varadkar. Martin has been long identified as a potential Taoiseach and his election tomorrow will ensure the continued historical trend of every Fianna Fáil leader holding the most important office in the land. Martin is the first Corkonian to occupy the office of Taoiseach since 1973. With his constituency colleagues Michael McGrath and Simon Coveney set to join him at the cabinet table, the centre of power, it could be argued, is set to shift from Merrion Street to the rebel county.
Tomorrow, the 33rd Dáil will meet at 10.30am to elect Micheál Martin as Taoiseach but it will be no normal affair. Due to the social distancing requirements, the Dáil will sit in the less glamorous Convention Centre in Dublin. There will be little ceremonial pageantry that is normally associated with the occasion. As Martin embraces these new surroundings tomorrow morning, perhaps there will be no better reminder of the enormous economic, environmental and social challenges which this historic new coalition government are faced with.
A major economic stimulus plan, the establishment of a credit guarantee scheme for businesses impacted by COVID-19, a trade deal with the UK and a new Climate Bill will be among the most immediate challenges in the first 100 days. One thing is for sure, there will be no honeymoon period for one of the most famous sons of Turner’s Cross.