Varadkar returns as Ireland’s prime minister – POLITICO

DUBLIN (AP) — Lawmakers elected Leo Varadkar Ireland’s prime minister for a second time on Saturday in the agreed succession to Micheál Martin as government partners vowed to defend the center of Irish politics against nationalist Sinn Féin.

“The hallmark of centrist Democrats is the ability to respect differences, find common ground, and cooperate. This is what we have done,” Martin said as he endorsed Varadkar’s nomination as Taoiseach, a central commitment in their coalition pact reached in 2020.

Under the terms of that deal, Ireland’s nearly century-old political rivals — Martin’s Fianna Fáil and Varadkar’s Fine Gael — formed their first joint government with the support of a junior coalition partner, the Green Party. The three agreed that Martin would lead for the first two and a half years, Varadkar for the remainder of an expected five-year administration.

joined forces in common opposition Sinn Féin, which topped the popular vote in 2020, has consistently led all opinion polls since then, and regular tests the majority of the coalition in the hope of triggering an early general election.

In a special weekend session of Dáil Eireann, the lower house of parliament, members voted along party lines. 87-62 to return the top position to Varadkar. The last time he served as Taoiseach, Gaelic for “chief”, he was from 2017 to 2020 as leader of a Fine Gael minority government externally backed by Fianna Fáil. That, too, was a novel arrangement shaped by Sinn Féin’s electoral rise.

As his first act in office, Varadkar announced a cabinet reshuffle designed to keep the interests of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil finely balanced. Martin becomes foreign minister, a post he previously held from 2008 to 2011. This makes him Ireland’s new point man for improving relations with neighboring Northern Ireland, where many British unionists view the Irish government as with hostility.

Current Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of Fine Gael will take over from Varadkar’s previous post as Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment. Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath has switched cabinet posts with Eurogroup president Paschal Donohoe, the highly regarded finance chief who now assumes the complementary role of minister for public spending.

Varadkar, a 43-year-old Dubliner, and Martin, a 62-year-old Corkman, overcame early behind-the-scenes tensions to lead a stable Irish coalition driven by exceptionally strong state finances fed by American multinationals.

On Saturday, they walked into Leinster House parliament building together, surrounded by supporters. They were joined by Martin’s wife and three children by his and Varadkar’s parents, an Indian doctor and an Irish nurse who met in a Dublin hospital.

In his victory speech, Varadkar noted that when he became the youngest Taoiseach in Irish history in 2017, much attention was focused on “what he represented and symbolized” that he had become both the first population leader of the country’s ethnic immigrants as well as its first openly gay prime minister. .

This time, he said, leading a nation “where you are free to be yourself” would mean solving the biggest problem in Ireland’s buoyant economy and rapidly growing population: the housing shortage and unaffordabilityespecially in a capital where the average monthly income exceeds €2,300.

“We are failing some of our citizens. It is essential to our success as a country that we spend the next two years doing everything we can to correct this,” Varadkar said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who refused to stand as a candidate in the leadership vote, accused Varadkar of spending her last 11 years at the cabinet table defending “the privileged class” and housing policies. designed “for wealthy investors and corporate owners.” .”

She told Varadkar and Martin on the other side of the camera that they were “essentially the only party now”, and would suffer a double defeat every time the next election is called.

“You can get in the way of change,” said McDonald, whose party is already The longest in Northern Ireland, where Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not running for election. “You can make people wait a little longer, but you can’t stop that change and you won’t. … The old ways are on borrowed time.”

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