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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C
The New Dáil

As it happened: Enda Kenny's appointment as Taoiseach

Enda Kenny’s new coalition government formally takes power, after he is appointed Taoiseach by 117 votes to 27.

ENDA KENNY formally became Taoiseach today, when the 31st Dáil convened to officially create the new cabinet and appoint the Dáil’s new Ceann Comhairle.

Proceedings in Leinster House kicked off at noon, and here’s how it all rolled out. The most recent updates are at the top of the page.

15:17: Labour, meanwhile, will have an equally tough job filling the rest – there is simply an embarrassment of riches among the party’s front bench, all striving to seek the last cabinet seat. Ruairí Quinn, Willie Penrose and Róisín Shortall could all lay claim to the final seat – meaning there will be a few disappointed faces this evening.

15:13: Given that five of the ten Fine Gael nominees are virtually certain, we can expect the other five ministers from that party’s ranks to include Fergus O’Dowd, Jimmy Deenihan, Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald and Simon Coveney. Fine Gael may, however, be wary of the fact that there would only be one female minister among their ranks – and the likes of Olivia Mitchell could make it in, even though she is the constituency colleague of Alan Shatter.

15:05: While the new Taoiseach returns to Leinster House ahead of the resumption of Dáil business at 4:40pm – when TDs will take their long-term seats – the speculation will now begin on who will be in the cabinet.

There are fifteen full-time cabinet jobs, probably to be split 10-5 in favour of Fine Gael, and given their roles in the negotiation teams, we can safely assume a number of appointees.

Fine Gael: Kenny; James Reilly, as deputy leader; Alan Shatter, Michael Noonan and Phil Hogan, as the negotiating team.
Labour: Eamon Gilmore, as Tánaiste; Joan Burton, Brendan Howlin and Pat Rabbitte as the negotiating team.

14:45: President McAleese, in the state reception room at Áras an Úachtaráin, has now officially signed the warrant appointing Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. He is now officially Ireland’s head of government.

He has also been given two seals: one appointing him to government, and the other as its head.

14:35: For anyone who ever needs to know: without traffic, you can apparently make it from Leinster House to the Áras in exactly fifteen minutes. Kenny has just driven through the gates of the Áras at the Phoenix Park.

14:33: We’ve uploaded an audio file of Kenny’s acceptance speech in the Dáil. You can find it here.

14:20: And off he goes. 24 minutes after the result of the vote was announced, Enda Kenny leaves Leinster House to receive his seal of office.

14:17: The Fine Gael parliamentary party is giving Kenny a rousing reception. The sheer size of the Fine Gael deputation – 75 TDs today, compared to the 31-TD party he inherited in 2002 – is testament to the success of his tenure.

14:13: Ireland’s new Taoiseach-designate is now congratulated on the steps of Leinster House as he departs to the Áras to receive his seal of office from President McAleese.

14:09: Kenny says he must now leave, to go to Áras an Úachtaráin to inform the president of his nomination to become Taoiseach. He proposes that the Dáil be suspended for two and a half hours, and the Dáil rises until 4:40pm – as the country’s new parliament rises to its feet to congratulate him.

14:08: The current crisis is the “darkest hour before the dawn,” Kenny says. Today is a “bright new day, where there is no gap – where the people and their government are one again.”

Quoting Heaney: “‘You have to try and make sense of what comes. Remember everything, and keep your head.’ We will… Let us lift up our heads, turn our faces to the sun, and hang out our brighest colours.

“It is the first day of a journey to a better future.”

14:06: Our programme for government “is confident and ambitious… is fair and is truly radical.” Working side-by-side, government and people will succeed. He adds: “No party has a monopoly of good ideas,” saying he will collaborate with members of the opposition whenever and wherever possible.

14:04: “Our horizons are not fixed, but travel with us as we go,” Kenny says. Hope is handed down through generations. “Today I enter into a covenant with the Irish people… honesty is not just our best policy, it is our only policy. Our new government will tell people the truth of our situation.”

14:02: His task, he says, is about renewal: about renewing the economy, the political system, about hope. Former Taoisigh, he says, “all bore good and honourable witness to the state of our country and the state of our people.” They walked with him and his family, and represent “the very soul of the Irish people,” an emotional Kenny says.

14:01: Kenny says today is also a big day for the new first-time TDs, and once again says Barrett will be “an honourable chair”. He thanks the members for “the honour they have given me today” – saying he stands with a sense of great gratitude and humility.

13:59: Kenny begins by congratulating Seán Barrett on his appointment as Ceann Comhairle. He also thanks Simon Harris and Ciara Conway for proposing him, and welcomes the words of Micheal Martin. “Were she [Fionnuala] still with you, you might be in a much stronger position today,” he jokes, to universal applause.

13:58: Gerry Adams and Finian McGrath add their congratulations.

13:57: Kenny has always been “motivated by the highest public spirit,” Martin says, wishing the new Taoiseach all the best. He also sends regards to Kenny’s wife Fionnuala, who used to be a Fianna Fail press officer.

13:56: Enda Kenny has been elected Taoiseach by 117 votes to 27.

13:55: Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett asks TDs to return to their seats for the result.

13:52: Nearly there now. Independent TD Stephen Donnelly is one of those walking through the pro-Kenny lobby.

13:43: TDs have been given their ten-minute warning, and the voting is now underway.

13:35: While we wait for the results of the vote, let’s recap on the new makeup of the Dáil: Fine Gael 75, Labour 37, Fianna Fáil 20, Sinn Féin 14, United Left Alliance 5, others 14. (The Ceann Comhairle is now a non-party TD.)

We would expect, given the indication that independents Healy-Rae, Lowry and Grealish are set to vote in favour of the government, that the margin in this vote should be 115 in favour, and a maximum of 50 opposed.

13:30: Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett is now concluding the debate, and calling a vote. The vote has been contested, so a manual vote through the lobbies will begin. This will take, however, ten minutes to organise the vote, and another ten minutes or so for the vote to take place.

13:28: Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty says people voted, above all else, “for change”. He is disappointed that this hope will be “snatched away” from people.

13:26: Healy-Rae is “a servant of the people and shall facilitate the passage of all measures that are required in the national interest”. With a word for his fellow rural TD Kenny: “The people have spoken, and now is our chance to work together to get this country back on its feet.”

13:23: Michael Healy-Rae: “You’ll be glad to know that I’ll be brief.” The de-capped deputy says he will support whatever measures will create jobs. He also calls for a more transparent parliamentary system, with committees as the ‘first stop’ for bills.

13:20: Flanagan says Kenny should take the advice of Constantin Gurdgiev, David McWilliams and his fellow TD Shane Ross and default. “If we do that, we have some chance of getting out of the hole we’re in,” he says. Default is inevitable, he adds, so we might as well do it ourselves.

13:16: Despite being from the West of Ireland, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan says he won’t support Kenny’s nomination. He marvels at how Labour wanted Gilmore for Taoiseach, and many of Kenny’s own TDs wanted another leader so recently, but hopes Kenny does well so that emigration is taken off the table. “I dream and I hope that after five years of thsi government, we will have solved the problem of emigration once and for all.”

13:14: “I will not be voting for Deputy Kenny for Taoiseach, but I do wish him well,” says the colourful Mick Wallace of Wexford. His campaigning educated him on a “huge anger among people”, wondering why the taxpayer is “carrying the burden of the banking system”. He supports a referendum on the matter. “I don’t think people feel well served by the political process.”

13:11: Kerry South independent Tom Fleming says the country needs “ethical and compassionate leadership” and that he is abstaining in the vote on Kenny’s appointment.

13:09: “People voted for change… for a reversal of those cuts,” says new independent Waterford TD John Halligan. The former Workers Party member says he “regrets” that Labour has not opted for opposition to create a genuine left-right divide in the Dáil.

13:08: “I have been a bit liberal, in so far as those who are making their maiden speeches are concerned,” the Ceann Comhairle says, asking people to speak on the motion at hand and not commentate on a policy of government that hasn’t yet been appointed.

13:03: “You don’t have to be an economic expert that you don’t ‘get Ireland working’ when 25,000 jobs are axed,” RBB says, referring to the coalition plan to shed public sector workers. “Labour, frankly, should be ashamed of themselves.”

13:00: He is followed by Richard Boyd Barrett, who confirms that he and fellow People Before Profit TD Joan Collins will not be voting in favour of Collins. The new government is very good, he says, at “the politics of saying one thing during an election campaign, and then doing something very very different as soon as the votes are in the ballot box.”

12:56: Seamus Healy, an independent from Tipperary South who is part of the United Left Alliance, is on his feet and opposing Kenny’s nomination. The new programme for government will lead to an increase in food prices, he says – and he has grave concerns over public services if the Programme cuts 25,000 public jobs as promised.

12:54: “In terms of it being an end to a dark period… I fear the promises of change will be empty,” Ross says. He is interrupted by FG’s Bernard Durkan, who comes the first to be scolded by the new Ceann Comhairle. “What I fear is that we are just getting… an almost inevitable yielding to the temptation to be a government which is so similar to the last one.”

12:50: Ross says he’s disappointed that Labour have agreed with the programme for government, given how vehemently they had opposed many of its policies just ten days ago. “They will stick together, come hell or high water. That is not good enough.”

In particular, he has issues with the tactic of “what is so optimistically called burden-sharing”. He’s calling for a referendum on the public’s approval of the bailout deal.

12:47: Up comes Shane Ross, who announces “the first split in the technical group” – that he opposes Joe Higgins on his particular matter. He “hopes and prays” that the new government can use the goodwill being offered to it by the people.

12:43: Here’s Gerry Adams again. Sinn Féin can’t support Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, he says. “It’s nothing personal, I have great respect for the mandate won by Fine Gael.” It’s hardly surprising, he adds, that Fianna Fáil is not opposing Kenny’s appointment, given they seem to have written most of the programme for government.

“It’s very appropriate that we gather here at the beginning of lent, given what is coming up,” he says, adding that his party won’t be in opposition simply to oppose. “If, by fluke, positive proposals are brought forward, we will support them.”

12:38: Higgins’ language is quite striking. He says European bankers had their “snouts in the trough that was the Irish property boom” and evokes the spirit of the James Connolly, who would have overthrown a system and not stopped until “every last bond and debenture was burned”. Connolly, he says, would be ashamed that Labour is joining the current government.

12:36: The next speaker is Joe Higgins, representing the technical group. He says he’s amazed that the outgoing government didn’t return today, on Ash Wednesday, “heavily stained with penitential ash”. He will be opposing Kenny’s nomination, saying he proposes to reinstate a “poisonous cocktail of austerity”.

12:34: “I want my country to do well, no matter who’s in charge,” Martin says. Though he has reservations about the policies of the new government, he wishes it well.

12:30: Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin is on his feet. He says one of the major messages of the election was reform; and dispensing with the usual formula, his party won’t oppose Kenny’s nomination or those of his ministers, nor support their own candidates. He says, however, that the programme for government is one of the vaguest in history, and that Fine Gael and Labour “kicked to touch” on many of the issues they couldn’t agree on.

In particular, the decision to have one minister setting a budget, and another implementing it, seems “a recipe for confusion and conflict”, he says – borne out of a refusal by the parties to agree on a single candidate for the finance ministry.

12:28: Labour’s Ciara Conway – the youngest member of her own party – is seconding the nomination of Kenny. She says that the decision of the Dáil’s two largest parties to unite under a common leader is “momentous” and the new government will create “a free and fair Ireland to call our own.”

12:25: Fine Gael’s Simon Harris – the youngest member of the Dáil – is now kicking off the nominations for Taoiseach by proposing his party leader, Enda Kenny. “At the core of Enda Kenny is an honesty and decency,” he says. “Today, the period of mourning is over for Ireland.”

12:24: Sean Barrett has now taken the declaration that he will “duly and faithfully… execute the office of Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann without fear or favour”, and has taken his seat at the dais of the house.

12:22: Barrett appeals to new TDs to bring forward proposals for changing the Dáil’s standing orders if they feel them to be outdated, and has pledged to be an impartial chair.

12:19: “Our task now is to live up to the confidence the people placed in us, and in our parliament,” the new Ceann Comhairle says, adding: “We need a modern parliament for a modern age.”

12:16: The motion to make Sean Barrett Ceann Comhairle has been unanimously agreed to, and Barrett is taking the chair.

12:14: Gerry Adams is making his maiden speech in the Dáil. He wishes Barrett well at Ceann Comhairle – but has mentioned that he wishes this election was taking place by secret ballot.

On behalf of the independent technical group, Finian McGrath has wished Barrett well.

12:12: Kieran Coughlan is now seeking nominations to the position of Ceann Comhairle. Enda Kenny is – as we knew – proposing Seán Barrett for the position, and Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin is supporting that nomination – as is Labour leader, and fellow Dún Laoghaire TD, Eamon Gilmore. Barrett, currently, is not even sitting in the chamber itself – the seating arrangements for today are so ad-hoc that he’s on a chair behind the main seating.

12:08: For the time being, Sinn Féin are sitting in the seats previously occupied by Labour. We’ve just gotten our first glimpse, too, of Wexford independent Mick Wallace: he’s eschewed the usual protocol of wearing a suit, and is wearing a pink polo shirt.

12:05: The camera has panned across the Dáil chamber. There are so few Fianna Fáil TDs remaining, and so many Fine Gael and Labour ones, that there are four Labour TDs in the seats usually occupied by the ministers. Coughlan is now reading, into the record, the names of the 165 TDs who have been elected to the new Dáil.

12:02: The Clerk of the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan, has kicked off proceedings. He is reading the official order that dissolved the last Dáil, and the procedural business that triggered the election.

11:59: The first TDs are in the room – Enda Kenny has led his troops into the room, and among those in the front row are Frances Fitzgerald and Simon Coveney, as well as Labour’s Joanna Tuffy. A hint of cabinet appointments?

11:53: Michael Ring TD, Enda Kenny’s constituency colleague in Mayo, has told Pat Kenny he won’t be a member of the cabinet – and admits he’s disappointed to be left out, having been a Fine Gael frontbencher before the election.

11:49: Micheal Martin has just emailed members of Fianna Fáil with a virtual pep talk ahead of today’s proceedings.

As Leader of the Opposition, I will not oppose for the sake of opposing. Fianna Fáil will be a constructive opposition. We will put the economic renewal of this country first. We will be vigilant, and will hold the new government to account to ensure that they continue the process of change and recovery which we began.

While this was a difficult election for our Party, the work put in by our members made a difference on the day. We had excellent candidates who narrowly missed out, but we also had some great new candidates who succeeded.

Thank you to all our members for everything you did for Fianna Fáil in the campaign.

11.45: Good morning – thanks for joining us. It’ll be an eventful day in Leinster House, and we’ll be here to guide you through what’s going down.

Among the things we’ve found out already this morning:

  • Simon Harris, the youngest TD of the new Dáil, will formally propose Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, with someone from Labour – most likely Eamon Gilmore – seconding the nomination.
  • Seán Barrett will be the FG nominee for Ceann Comhairle, and is therefore guaranteed to get the job.

The change of power: how today’s Dáil proceedings will work >