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Bertie Ahern says Micheál Martin will want the first go at being Taoiseach

Ahern said Martin is “old” as Fianna Fáil Taoisigh go.

Image: Liam McBurney

FORMER TAOISEACH BERTIE Ahern has indicated that Micheál Martin will want “to go first” at being Taoiseach in a new government with Fine Gael.

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk, Ahern said:

“Micheál will say that he is the biggest party but if I was Micheál I would probably also say that I’m over 60 and as Fianna Fáil Taoisigh go, that’s old.

“So I’m sure he will want to go first and I don’t blame him for that and I think he has the argument for that.”

Traditionally in Irish coalition governments, the leader of the largest party becomes Taoiseach and leader of the junior partner becomes Tánaiste.

There are many examples of this since the first coalition government in 1948, but the most recent example is Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny and Labour’s Joan Burton.

The fact that the three largest parties in the new Dáil are so even in terms of seat numbers has raised the question of the rotating Taoiseach again.

It’s not the first time – it was mooted in the 90s and also in 2016.

When it comes to agreeing on a rotating Taoiseach, and who goes first, Martin and Varadkar will make the call.

Martin has indicated there is some sort of agreement on the matter, but would not be drawn on it this week when asked. Some Fine Gael TDs have said Martin taking the first shift as Taoiseach is palatable to the party and not a bone of contention. 

Ahern added: “I think Leo will be handling the crisis for the next couple of weeks anyway and he’s done a good job in bringing us through that.”

general-election-ireland-2020 Source: Brian Lawless

On Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael entering into a coalition government together, Ahern said “it’s not an easy task”.

“For Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to get a framework document together by itself isn’t easy. And to pull in some of the other parties is not going to be easy.”

He said he would like to see one or more parties also entering government with the two larger parties.

“You remember in 2007, I went to be well over the figure. I think Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and just the independents – while I think that it’s very important to have the independents – it’s not stable enough.

“You need at least one other party. Personally, I’d love to see maybe if there were two, then you’d have people working together.”

He said newly elected TDs are of the mindset that “parties tend not to get great thanks from the electorate for doing the right thing at the right time”.
If those TDs are looking to the next election, and thinking they won’t get any thanks for entering government, it is the wrong way to be thinking, said Ahern.

“Here is an opportunity for me and my party to play a real role in helping the economy, to make the economy work and revive it, rather than sitting on the sidelines, just chirping away.”

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