Irish leaders end deadlock, make deal for new government

AP News
|
Posted: Apr 29, 2016 4:12 PM
Irish leaders end deadlock, make deal for new government

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland's age-old political enemies struck a historic deal Friday night to create a fragile new government following an inconclusive election and two months of deadlock.

The potential three-year agreement between negotiators from the governing Fine Gael and the opposition Fianna Fail parties means it's likely that caretaker Prime Minister Enda Kenny, Ireland's leader since 2011, will be re-elected next week atop a minority Fine Gael government.

To survive, Kenny's government will require vote-by-vote support from the opposition benches, because Fianna Fail has refused to join the coalition and would wield the power to pull the plug on cooperation at any time.

Such minority governments are common in some European countries but a novelty in Ireland, where Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have alternated atop majority governments for nine decades — but never shared power.

"The days of majority rule in absolute terms ... are gone. We are entering into a new era in Irish politics, where the views of everyone need to be taken on board," said Fianna Fail negotiator Michael McGrath.

"It is going to be a very challenging scenario for everybody involved, but we have to make it work," McGrath said.

The Feb. 26 election weakened Fine Gael, leaving Kenny's center-right party without a viable coalition partner in a politically fractured 158-member parliament. Fine Gael holds 50 seats while resurgent Fianna Fail came second with 44.

Friday's deal requires formal ratification in separate meetings of lawmakers expected to take place within three days, followed by a parliamentary vote to elect a new prime minister, possibly Wednesday.

Kenny failed to receive a majority of support from lawmakers in three previous parliamentary votes. Friday's deal means that next time, Fianna Fail will decline to vote for their own party leader, Micheal Martin.

If Fianna Fail lawmakers abstain, Kenny will be certain to receive most votes cast and win re-election as premier, giving him authority to form a new Cabinet.

The fallout from the Feb. 26 election already has produced the longest period of governmental limbo in Ireland since its 1920s independence from Britain.

While Fianna Fail and Fine Gael share similar politics, they remain fierce rivals dating to their origins as enemies in Ireland's 1922-23 civil war that followed independence.