With both main political parties taking a mauling in February’s general election, and the country effectively in limbo and unable to pass new legislation, Mr Varadkar is pinning hopes on the unprecedented three-way agreement between the Greens, his own Fine Gael party and historical rivals Fianna Fail, led by Micheal Martin. If it gets the go-ahead, Mr Martin replaces Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach – Ireland’s equivalent of Prime Minister – for the first half of a five-year term of the Dail, Ireland’s Parliament, with the Fine Gael leader coming in for the second half.
If the numbers are close, if we just about get the required backing, there may be calls for a recount
However, with the votes of grassroots members of all three parties being counted today, there are no guarantees, especially with respect to the Greens, where a two-thirds majority is required.
A result is expected from 6pm – but one party source said it was “on a knife edge”, which could push the verdict back several hours.
The insider explained: “If the numbers are close, if we just about get the required backing, there may be calls for a recount.
Leo Varadkar is pinning his hopes on the three-way coalition
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan
“This would take us closer to 9pm realistically.”
Greens leader Eamon Ryan, who lost his seat a decade ago when the party was wiped out after its first and only term in government, is pushing for a yes vote.
Speaking to RTE earlier this week, he said: “We went into the election saying ‘want Green, vote Green’, and the people who voted do think we should go into government.”
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Micheal Martin will be the next Prime Minister, in accordance with the deal
Mr Varadkar, who is currently Taoiseach in an acting capacity, has warned the country will be headed for a political crisis if the deal is rejected.
Such an outcome could result in a new election made more difficult by ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Alternatively, there could be efforts to form an alternative coalition, possible involving Sinn Fein, led by Mary Lou McDonald, which has been frozen out of talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, or even Mr Varadkar being re-elected for a matter of hours or days to pass important outstanding legislation.
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Sinn Fein, led by Mary Lou McDonald, has been excluded from talks
Mary Lou McDonald pictured at the Dail in February
Ireland is unable to pass any new laws until a permanent Taoiseach is appointed, who will in turn select the final members needed to constitute the upper house and therefore rubber-stamp legislation.
Mr Varadkar himself remains optimistic, outwardly at least, saying yesterday: “My prediction is that the three parties tomorrow will vote to go into coalition with each other, that the Yes vote will be larger than people expect in all three parties and we will have a new government on Saturday.”
Mr Martin has said he is “quietly confident” the deal will backed by more than 50 percent of Fianna Fail members – the required threshold.
Irish general election results
He told Cork-based paper The Echo: “Many members when we were talking to them – while it isn’t ideal – understand the need for the country to have a government that can last five years.
“I think there is a realism there that a government needs to be formed.
“We’re in an extraordinary crisis as a result of COVID-19, particularly on the economic front and the employment issue.”
Stall handlers wearing face masks and gloves at Roscommon race course in Ireland, where an election would be difficult
Asked earlier this week by Northern Irish journalist Rodney Edwards whether she thought she would eventually become Taoiseach, Ms McDonald said: “Yes, I do actually, and I don’t say that in a vain way, I’m not trying to pat myself on the back.
“I think the time is right now for a woman to lead government here.
“Obviously, we have broken that glass ceiling in the North, and I think similarly it’s time here in the South.
“I don’t say that anybody should assume the role of Taoiseach simply because they’re a woman, that’s not the point I’m making, but I think it’s very important for society in general, but for women and girls in particular, that we prove without any fear of contradiction that women can occupy the most senior roles in public life, I think that matters.”