Leo Varadkar last night hinted he wanted to remain as Taoiseach, the Irish term for prime minister, under Ireland’s new coalition government. Last week he finally agreed a deal with opposition party Fianna Fáil, but the pair still need a third party to join them in order to secure a majority in the Dail, the Irish Government.
Potential coalition partners include the Green Party, Social Democrats, Labour and groups of independent TDs – the Irish equivalent of MPs.
Mr Varadkar, who resigned as Taoiseach in February following his party’s crushing election defeat, has remained in post until his successor is appointed.
His government ministers have also kept their roles, until new ones are formally announced.
But Simon Coveney, the current deputy prime minister and Mr Varadakar’s Fine Gael colleague, has suggested a new government will not be formed until mid-June.
The two leading parties are understood to be considering a rotating Taoiseach under its new government, which would see one leader assume the role and then handing it over to another half-way through the Dail’s term.
But speaking on RTE’s Prime Time on Tuesday night, Mr Varadkar said a decision on a rotating Taoiseach, or the allocation of ministerial portfolios would only be taken once a third coalition partner has joined the fold.
He suggested the new party would have a role in deciding if he or Micheál Martin, Fianna Fáil’s leader, would serve as Taoiseach first.
He said: “What we have agreed between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is that it is going to be an equal partnership between the two parties in every sense of that meaning.
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“However, when it comes to deciding how the Taoiseach will be rotated and who gets what cabinet folios and all those other things we decided between the two of us that was something that we should have as part of the talks with the leaders of the other parties.
“We didn’t want to present a fait accompli and say ‘here it is, will you sign up to our deal?’.
“We want that to be part of a discussion that we’re having with the parties.”
Asked if he had a preference about becoming Taoiseach first under the new Government, Mr Varadkar replied: “It sounds like a line but it really is true – it so isn’t about me I will do this job to the best of my ability for so long as I hold it.”
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He said it would be a privilege to stay as Taoiseach but warned forming a Government now was “not for the faint hearted” as the country faced a very different situation to the time of the general election.
But Mr Varadkar did boldly assert his leadership in the interview, his first televised interview since the coronavirus crisis began, when he said he would be the one to announce any changes to the country’s lockdown measures.
He said: “When you hear it from me, that’s a plan.”
Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin will hold individual meetings with other party leaders this week in an effort to convince a third party into a coalition with them.
They have both ruled out forming a coalition with Sinn Féin.
In February, Mr Varadkar suffered a humiliating election defeat where his ruling came third behind Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.
No single party secured an outright majority.
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