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Ireland’s Greens Back Deal to Create First Grand Coalition

Peter Flanagan

(Bloomberg) -- Ireland’s Green Party voted to enter government, sealing a deal to create the country’s first grand coalition.

The party’s members backed a proposal to enter government with the two parties which have traditionally dominated Irish politics, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, by 76% to 24%. Two thirds of the party’s members had to back the deal for it to pass.

A new government is expected to be formally confirmed on Saturday, with Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin set to be elected prime minister. The Green vote is the last step in agreeing a new government, after a February 8 general election failed to produce a clear winner. Martin will lead the nation until the end of 2022, when outgoing Prime Minister Leo Varadkar moves back into the top job.

The new government will have to grapple with the fallout from the coronavirus crisis. While case numbers have plummeted and the country has begun to reopen, the economy may shrink by about 8% this year, according to the Irish central bank. Even without the pandemic, the government will be under pressure to move quickly to ease a housing shortage and homelessness crisis that emerged as key issues during the election.

The deal locks Sinn Fein, which won the biggest share of votes in February’s election, out of power. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail refused to negotiate with Sinn Fein because of its former links with terrorism and left-leaning policies.

The Greens are only now recovering from their last brush with power. The party governed with Fianna Fail from 2007 to 2011. After the Irish economy collapsed, the party lost all six of its seats.

Led by Eamon Ryan, the party won 12 seats in the election.

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