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Wednesday, 20 November 2019

New Irish PM takes reins at head of coalition

Enda Kenny to face bank-bailout crisis after being elected as Prime Minister by Ireland's parliament

AFP , Wednesday 9 Mar 2011
Ireland's current PM Enda Kenny, (Reuters).
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Enda Kenny took the reins as Ireland's prime minister on Wednesday following a dramatic general election in the wake of an economic collapse.

Kenny, a 59-year-old former teacher, was elected by 117 votes to 27 by lawmakers in the Dail, or lower house of parliament, and will head a coalition government of his centre-right Fine Gael party and centre-left Labour.

He is the first Taoiseach, or prime minister, from Fine Gael since 1997 after the once-dominant Fianna Fail party was hammered by voters last month.

Top of the new government's list of priorities is a difficult renegotiation of an IMF-EU bailout package that Ireland was forced to accept last year after an economy once dubbed the "Celtic Tiger" slowed dramatically.

In his maiden speech, Kenny told lawmakers he was "very mindful of the task" ahead of him in rebuilding the economy.

"This current crisis is the darkest hour before the dawn," he said, adding that a "bright new day" had come.

"We do stand on the threshold of fundamental change, but there is equally another task, and that is the task of renewal," he said.

Fine Gael and Labour, led by Eamon Gilmore, have produced a 64-page "Government for National Recovery" programme aimed at tackling the debt-ridden eurozone country's economic crisis.

The government will have only a brief honeymoon as both coalition parties made renegotiation of the international bailout terms a key priority and they have little time to lose as they face their fellow eurozone leaders at a summit on Friday.

The veteran Michael Noonan, a former leader of Fine Gael, is likely to be named finance minister.

With 76 seats for Fine Gael and 37 for Labour, the new coalition will have a huge majority in the 166-seat Dail.

The election redrew Ireland's political map as voters punished Fianna Fail, the party of outgoing premier Brian Cowen, which had dominated Irish politics for 80 years but was blamed for the disastrous economic situation.

Fianna Fail won just 20 seats, down from the 78 it took in 2007.

Its demise came after it agreed a bailout worth 85 billion euros ($115 billion) with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund last November, which many Irish see as a humiliation.

It made Ireland the second country in the 17-nation eurozone after Greece to accept emergency help.

Across the floor of the Dail, the new coalition will face a more radical hard-left opposition after Sinn Fein almost tripled its seats to 14, while its president Gerry Adams enters the republic's parliament for the first time.

Among 19 independents and other lawmakers elected is a united left alliance group.

The coalition programme pledges to achieve the three percent of gross domestic product target for the deficit by 2015.

In order to "enhance international credibility," the coalition will also stick to austerity targets for 2011-2012 set out in a four-year plan drawn up by the last government.

Ireland's budget deficit reached an alarming 32 percent of GDP after a state bailout of the country's banks, which had lent recklessly and fuelled an unsustainable property boom.

The coalition pledges to reform the much-derided finance ministry "by bringing in new leadership and skills to restore its capacity and credibility in financial and macroeconomic management."

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