Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, shocked the political establishment in February’s election by securing more votes than any other party for the first time. It has 37 seats in the fractured 160-seat Parliament, the same number as Fianna Fail and two more than Fine Gael.
The Greens needed the backing of two-thirds of its grassroot members, a higher bar than the larger parties that kept a deal struck last week in doubt until the votes were counted. It passed by a margin of 76 per cent to 24 per cent, a similar level to the two other parties.
After Varadkar’s caretaker government had to lock down the country to slow the spread of coronavirus, Martin said the reopening of the majority of the economy from Monday would be “a moment of opportunity and a moment of hope for our people”.
He said he hoped the new government could tackle problems in housing, healthcare and climate change, which he described as “the existential challenge of our time”.
As kingmakers, the Greens were able to drive a hard bargain, including a commitment to a 7 per cent average annual cut in greenhouse gas emissions, versus just 2 per cent currently, an end to the issuing of new licenses for the exploration and extraction of gas and a greater focus on public transport infrastructure.
With three of its 12 members of parliament opposed to the deal, leader Eamon Ryan even enlisted the help of US actor and activist Mark Ruffalo to persuade its 2000 members to vote ‘yes’ during 10 days of debate.
Ryan said Ireland could now take its place in the wider world’s biggest challenge “to stop the madness that climate change will bring if it’s let go unchecked”.
The ratification avoids what Varadkar said would have been a political crisis had it been rejected, with parliament unable to pass new laws, including those underpinning a €6.5 billion ($10.6 billion) package to help businesses hit by the coronavirus crisis, until a prime minister was appointed.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, both of Fine Gael, are expected to remain in their roles when Martin names his new cabinet.