- 28 Jun 20
Following yesterday’s approval by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party of a historic coalition deal, Micheál Martin (of Fianna Fáil) was installed as Taoiseach and the line-up of the new cabinet was announced, with the Green Party taking three portfolios – including the role of Minister for the Arts (and lots more besides)!
Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, was today elected as Taoiseach, bringing to an end months of political instability since the general election in February ended in stalemate.
The formation of a new government represents a historic moment in Irish politics, with the two old-style ‘civil war’ parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, joining for the first time in a fully-fledged coalition government. His election as Taoiseach is a unique vindication for Micheál Martin, who was leader of Fianna Fáil when the party hit a historic low in Dáil representation, following the 2011 general election – in which they were left with a mere 20 TDs out of 166, involving a loss of 51 seats.
In 2016, in an election which saw the Labour Party hammered by the electorate, with Micheál Martin still installed as leader – Fianna Fáil partially regained favour, winning 44 seats out of a reduced 157 seats. In February 2020 they lost a number of those gains, as a result of a surge in Sinn Féin support. Nonetheless, Micheál Martin was hugely relieved that they had more seats than any other party at 38, followed by Sinn Fin on 37 and Fine Gael on 35. The Greens ended up on a credible 12 seats, in effect handing them the role of ‘kingmakers’ as the scrabble to form a government commenced. Following a failed attempt by Sinn Féin to put a coalition of the left together, it became clear that the only government likely to be viable would be a combination of the Greens and the traditional enemies, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. And so it has proved.
For people involved in music, the big question was: who would be made Minister for the Arts? The answer is that the role has gone to the Deputy Leader of the Green Party, Catherine Martin, who is also a challenger for the leadership of the party – though the events of the past few days have probably strengthened the hand of the incumbent Eamon Ryan. He has been appointed as Minister for the Environment – though that job has been restyled as the Minister for Climate Action, Communication, Networks and Transport.
Meanwhile a very different – and welcome – twist has been given to the Arts portfolio, with the new title for the job reading Minister for Media, Tourism, Art, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht. This, in many ways, represents a return to the genesis of the Department – which was introduced in 1992, when Michael D. Higgins was appointed as Minister to a new department of Culture, following what was called the Spring tide, when the Labour Party won 33 seats under their then-leader, Dick Spring.
Other welcome new faces around the cabinet table include Helen McEntee, who steps into the role of Minister for Justice, taking over from Charle Flanagan – it will be fascinating to see how she deals with what is a notoriously conservative department; Roderic O’Connor of the Greens, who succeeds Katherine Zappone as Minister for Children, in an expanded portfolio that now also includes Disability, Equality and Integration; and Stephen Donnelly who inherits what is often considered a poisoned chalice as Minister for Health.
The full list of Cabinet members reads:
Micheál Martin (FF), Taoiseach
Leo Varadkar (FG), Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Eamon Ryan (Green), Minister for Climate Action, Communication, Networks and Transport
Pascal Donohoe (FG), Minister for Finance
Michael McGrath, Minister for Public expenditure and Reform
Simon Coveney (FG) Minister for Foreign Affairs
Norma Foley (FF), Minister for Education
Roderic O’Gorman (Greens), Minister for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration
Barry Cowen (FF), Minister for Agriculture and Marine
Helen McEntee (FG) Minister for Justice
Heather Humphries (FG), Minister for Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands
Darragh O’Brien (FF), Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage
Catherine Martin (Greens), Minister for Media, Tourism, Art, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht
Stephen Donnelly (FF), Minister for Health
Simon Harris (FG), Minister for Higher education, Innovation and Science.
Paul Gallagher has been appointed Attorney General; and Dara Colleary (FF) is the Government Chief-Whip.
There was a further twist to the story, when the Taoiseach Micheál Martin revealed his 11 nominees to Seanad Éireann – though these also were clearly a product of the coalition talks. He also advised President Michael D. Higgins to convene the first meeting of the new Seanad on Monday, 29 June.
Regina Doherty (who was Minister for Social Protection and was Fine Gael TD for Meath East until the General Election in February) will be the new leader of the Seanad.
The remaining nominees are Mary Fitzpatrick (Dublin councillor), Erin McGreehan (Louth County councillor), Timmy Dooley (former TD for Clare) of Fianna Fáil; Aisling Dolan (Galway County councillor), Emer Currie (a running mate in Dublin West for Leo Varadkar in the last election) and Mary Seery Kearney (South Dublin County councillor) of Fine Gael; Vincent P Martin (councillor for Kildare) and Róisín Garvey (councillor for Clare) of the Green Party; and Travellers' rights activist, Eileen Flynn.
Outgoing senator for Fianna Fáil, Lorraine Clifford-Lee, was also re-nominated to the Seanad.