Irish parties reach draft coalition deal with rotating PM

Agence France-Presse . Dublin | Published: 00:05, Jun 16,2020


Leo Varadkar

Three Irish parties on Monday agreed a draft deal to form a coalition government with a rotating prime minister, sparking outrage from Sinn Fein, which was excluded.

Four months after a landmark election, the largest party in parliament, Fianna Fail, said it had ‘signed off on the draft programme for government’ with Fine Gael and the Green Party.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael — acting in a caretaker role since his party was routed at the polls — earlier said there would be a rotating prime minister at dates that had been agreed upon.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who leads a 38-seat bloc in a 160-seat parliament, would become the first premier until December 2022 and Varadkar would then take over, RTE said.

But Sinn Fein, the former fringe left-wing republican party which won the second largest number of votes, blasted the agreement.

Sinn Fein seeks to break the traditional dominance of centre-right Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, but was excluded from the negotiations.

Leader Mary Lou McDonald said the two main parties were only interested in ‘protecting the status quo and stopping change’.

The deal, which involves 35 Fine Gael and 12 Green lawmakers with those from Fianna Fail, still requires approval from rank-and-file party members.

They were to be briefed later Monday before a new government is formed.

If passed, the agreement would represent a milestone in Irish politics as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail — rivals since the Republic’s civil war — would govern together for the first time.

Sinn Fein would become the largest party of opposition.

It came first in the popular vote on February 8 with more than 24 per cent of first- preference ballots, and became the second biggest group in parliament with 37 seats.

But its past associations with Irish Republican Army paramilitaries hampered attempts to broker a deal with other parties to reach the 80-seat threshold needed to take office.

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