Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will remain in place as a caretaker Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) of the 32nd Dáil (lower house in Irish parliament) despite losing the vote to be re-elected as the government leader earlier today.
The Dáil reconvened today for the first time since the February 26 Irish general election, with the election of a new Taoiseach high on the agenda.
As expected, however, no new Taoiseach was chosen, despite four TDs being nominated for the position, and talks will now continue between those parties holding the most seats - Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - and smaller parties and Independents in the hopes of quickly forming a majority government
Enda Kenny (Mayo), Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin (Cork South-Central), Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams (Louth) and Richard Boyd Barrett from Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit Party (Dun Laoghaire) each faced a vote to take the Taoiseach’s seat.
Kenny was the first to face his inevitable loss, being defeated in his reelection bid by 94 votes to 57. Backed by his own party members and by the seven Labour Party TDs, he was faced down by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein, the Green Party and Social Democrats, Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit Party and Independent Alliance TDs and other Independents to deny him the role.
Five TDs abstained from the Kenny vote including Independents Michael Harty (Clare), Noel Grealish (Galway West), Mattie McGrath (Tipperary), Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway) and Michael Collins (Cork-South West).
One TD, Independent Michael Lowry (Tipperary), was not in attendance in the Dáil for the vote and the newly elected Ceann Comhairle (head of council) Sean O Fearghail also does not have a vote.
Kenny confirmed he will submit his resignation as Taoiseach to the President but he and his ministers will remain in place as caretakers until such time as a new government is formed.
“Let me assure the Irish people that the government remains in place and that I and my cabinet colleagues will continue to work hard on behalf of the Irish people,” he announced, once it was confirmed that no Taoiseach would be elected.
Mícheál Martin was the second to face the vote, losing by 65. He received just 43 yes votes to 108 no votes, despite a previous poll carried out by Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research which showed the public would prefer Martin as Taoiseach over Kenny.
Forty per cent of those polled, however, wished for neither to take the top job.
Gerry Adams and Richard Boyd-Barrett’s slim hopes of being elected quickly came to an end also, with Adams receiving only 24 yes votes, and Boyd-Barrett just nine.
Today’s nominations were seen as nothing more than a formality for the first meeting of the new Dáil, with none of those nominated realistically believing they would pass the 80 votes out of 158 TDs needed to pass the finishing line.
They did succeed, however, in electing a new Ceann Comhairle (Dáil chairperson or speaker) by means of a secret ballot with Fianna Fáil’s South Kildare TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl officially taking on the role from 2.30pm (GMT).
Ó Fearghail was the only remaining candidate following the elimination of Fine Gael's Andrew Doyle and Bernard Durkan, Independent Maureen O'Sullivan and Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
The Kildare TD lost some of the spotlight, however, as the Healy-Rae brothers, both elected in the Kerry constituency last month, held an impromptu session outside Leinster House while the vote was ongoing.
Parties will now return to talks in an attempt to draw a coalition from the current stalemate with Tánaiste Joan Burton warning that stability is needed if Ireland is to avoid a political situation such as that in Spain, where a government stalemate added to a 20 per cent unemployment rate.
Calling on Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to form a coalition, she stated that there was “a real risk that economic policy would veer to the right and social progress would be limited, if at all”.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has also called on both parties to put aside the history of the Civil War, in which they fought on opposite sides, to form a coalition.