Mary Lou McDonald, the party leader of left-wing republican Sinn Féin (SF), who has just recovered from a coronavirus infection, has checked. She won the elections with 14 seats. With 37 seats, SF reached the same level as Fianna Fáil of Micheál Martin, who lost 7 seats. And she got two more seats than Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s ruling party Fine Gael. If there had been more Sinn Féin candidates in some places, she would have become the biggest party. The majority of Ireland wanted to go left in the elections in early February. Background: the growing dissatisfaction among the Irish about the housing shortage and shortages in public facilities such as hospitals.
Now both losing centre-right parties threaten to make a deal. They still need the support of a few others, but a combination never seen before in the centennial history of independent Ireland could rule the country soon. Fine Gael (FG) and Fianna Fáil (FF) have always excluded collaboration so far. It is not entirely clear why, it seems to have something to do with the past. Both sides have also stated their firm opposition to a coalition with Republican Sinn Féin. McDonald has therefore failed to form a government. Not with FG or FF. And not without them either. She needed too many independent MPs for a left-wing coalition with Labor and the Greens, among others.
The Greens, who have also won, are now ready to announce under which conditions they would like to participate in the intended centre-right loser coalition of Varadkar and Marin. After the previous adventure in a government coalition, the Greens disappeared from the scene. So they will want to sell their skin dearly. The party sent a letter to FF and FG yesterday with 17 questions. The letter is mainly intended to indicate the priorities for the Greens. Eamon Ryan, the party leader said that a reduction of at least 7% in carbon consumption per year is a red line for the Greens.
The other smaller parties will also be invited to express their views on possible government participation.
The similarity between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael emphasizes the equality of both parties. Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin will alternate as taoiseach, as the prime minister in Ireland is called. The popularity of Varadkar, which had fallen sharply at the beginning of this year, is now on the rise again because of its performance in the corona crisis. The former general practitioner Varadkar follows the call of his government to former doctors: he will also serve as a doctor once a week.
The Guardian writes:
The elections were a rebellion against the political establishment, but parliamentary arithmetic and the coronavirus pandemic paved the way for a major alliance between two rivals that have dominated Ireland for nearly a century.
The corona crisis appears to deliver more for the incumbent power than for the opposition. And not only in Ireland.
The call for unity and common action in the fight against the pandemic could also become more difficult in Ireland if the impact of economic measures becomes apparent. A leaked note from the outgoing government speaks of “unemployment, loss of income, increased debt, closures of businesses, reduced training opportunities, restrictions on mobility and social interactions, and ultimately the loss of loved ones.” Rents will remain frozen, but the note also predicts that social assistance benefits may need to be cut. Prime Minister Varadkar expects the EU to “bring the block to full financial firepower to help the economies emerging from the Covid-19 crisis get back on track.” His preview of government leaders’ talks yesterday .
The country is locked until May 5. But not for everyone. Varadkar himself questioned the crossing of seasonal workers from Eastern Europe for the fruit growers this week, after the necessary criticism. Last week, the first few hundred arrived from Sofia for the strawberry picking. They first quarantine for a fortnight. Fruit grower Keeling says he cannot do without seasonal workers from abroad. Since the 1990s, according to this entrepreneur, there are no longer enough workers on the Irish labor market to do this job. The government has launched a recruitment campaign among Irish people.
According to official figures, 16,671 people were infected in Ireland last Wednesday. The number of deaths that can certainly be attributed to the coronavirus was 769. In Ireland, too, efforts are being made to relax measures to prevent the virus from spreading. Immunologist Paul Moynagh insists on increasing the number of tests before restrictions are lifted. Now it is estimated that only one in ten cases is known.
The Irish are now looking forward to a relaxation of the rules. Fortunately, a large fast food chain opens today with limited service in a number of establishments. There are still some concerns whether the car will start if it has stood still for so long.