A deal has been agreed between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party in the Republic of Ireland, forming a new coalition government. Now, Fianna Fáil’s leader, Michael Martin, is set to serve as Ireland’s next Taoiseach until December 2022.
An historic draft programme for Government, agreed by Mr Martin, the current Irish premier and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, is set to lay out terms that will see the Taoiseach role rotate.
Mr Varadkar has been caretaker Taoiseach since the beginning of February.
He had previously been urged to include Sinn Fein in talks to form a coalition government after his party lost a considerable number of seats at the February elections.
Opposition party Sinn Fein, the politically left group historically associated with the IRA, meanwhile, enjoyed a resurgence, winning 37 seats – just one behind Fiánna Fail.
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John McGuinness, a senior politician from rival Fianna Fail party, called Mr Varadkar “ridiculous” for not including Sinn Fein in coalition talks.
The deadlock appears to have been solved, however, as the three leaders have finalised the deal to form a coalition government after more than four months of an impasse.
On Monday, when the details were confirmed by Mr Varadkar, as he explained the position of Taoiseach would be rotated and he indicated Mr Martin would be the first incumbent.
Many have questioned the extent to which Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin’s relationship will work.
In 2019, Mr Varadkar was forced to apologise to Mr Martin for making comments that the latter described as “bitter” and “personal”.
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It came during a Dáil (Ireland’s lower house and principal chamber) about the cost of capital projects.
As Mr Martin quizzed the then-Taoiseach over the plausibility of the spending projects, drawing attention to the fact they had likely gone over budget.
To this, Mr Varadkar responded: “I am always amused and bemused that Deputy Martin likes to accuse me of being partisan and personal yet, as evidenced by his name-calling today, he is very capable of being partisan and personal himself.”
He added: “The deputy reminds me of one of those parish priests who preaches from the altar telling us to avoid sin while secretly going behind the altar and engaging in any amount of sin himself.”
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At the time, Mr Martin retweeted Mr Varadkar’s quote, and said: “To be honest, I think this reflects more on the Taoiseach than anyone else.”
Mr Varadkar was later forced to apologise for his comments.
He told journalists: “Look, I said something in the heat of a debate in the Dáil, it was a rather bitter and personal debate on both sides. But in doing so I offended a lot of people who I never intended to offend.
“I am sorry for that, I withdraw the remarks and I do apologise.”
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When asked what he meant by the remarks, he said: “I was talking about the sin of hypocrisy, but I am not here to explain I am here to apologise.”
“I have immense respect for priests and the sacrifice they give in the lives they lead and immense respect for people of faith and it didn’t come out as I intended.”
His remarks indeed offended others in and around Ireland, including a handful of his fellow political peers.
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One, Fianna Fáil’s Mary Butler, said her religion should not be treated like this in the national parliament.
“It is simply unacceptable – he denigrates the entire Catholic Church,” she said.
“Unfortunately there was no such tolerance or respect shown for the Catholic religion in the Dáil yesterday when the taoiseach of the country likened the leader of Fianna Fáil to one of those parish priests from the altar telling us how to avoid sin while secretly going behind the altar and engaging in any amount of sin.”