Ri­val par­ties unite in rul­ing gov­ern­ment coali­tion

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Danica Kirka

LON­DON — Cen­trist politician Micheal Martin be­came Ire­land’s prime min­ster Saturday, fus­ing two long­time ri­val par­ties into a coali­tion four months after an elec­tion that up­ended the sta­tus quo.

The deal will see Martin’s Fianna Fail gov­ern with Fine Gael — the party of out­go­ing leader Leo Varad­kar —and with the smaller Green Party. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, bit­ter op­po­nents whose roots lie in op­pos­ing sides of the civil war that fol­lowed Ire­land’s in­de­pen­dence from the United King­dom, have never be­fore formed a gov­ern­ment to­gether.

“I be­lieve civil war politics ended a long time ago in our coun­try, but to­day civil war politics ends in our par­lia­ment,” Varad­khar said. “Two great par­ties com­ing to­gether with an­other great party, the Green Party, to of­fer what this coun­try needs, a sta­ble gov­ern­ment for the bet­ter­ment of our coun­try and for the bet­ter­ment of our world.”

The Dail, the lower house of

Ire­land’s par­lia­ment, elected Martin by a vote of 93­63, with three ab­sten­tions.

Un­der the plan ap­proved by the par­ties’ mem­ber­ships, Martin be­came taoiseach, or prime minister. He will serve un­til the end of 2022 and then hand the job back to Varad­kar.

The left­wing na­tion­al­ist party Sinn Fein was shut out of the new gov­ern­ment even though its elec­toral break­through saw it win the largest share of the votes in Fe­bru­ary’s elec­tion. De­spite com­ing out ahead, Sinn Fein was un­able to as­sem­ble enough sup­port to gov­ern.

The two cen­trist par­ties have long shunned Sinn Fein be­cause of its his­toric links to the Ir­ish Repub­li­can Army and decades of vi­o­lence in North­ern Ire­land. But in pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions fur­ther com­pli­cated by the COVID­19 out­break, the two ri­val cen­trist par­ties opted for unity.

Sinn Fein Pres­i­dent Mary Lou McDon­ald said Fianna Fail and Fine Gael con­spired to ex­clude her party and the voices of more than half a mil­lion peo­ple who voted for her party.

“Faced with the prospect of los­ing their grip on power, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have cir­cled the wag­ons,” McDon­ald said.

The elec­tion cam­paign was dom­i­nated by do­mes­tic is­sues. Ire­land has a grow­ing home­less­ness cri­sis, house prices that have risen faster than in­comes and a pub­lic health sys­tem that hasn’t kept up with de­mand.

Danica Kirka is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

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