Micheál Martin resigns as Taoiseach ahead of power handover to Leo Varadkar

PA Images. Compressed.
The mid-term switch of premiers will also prompt a cabinet reshuffle in Dublin. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Micheál Martin has formally resigned as Ireland’s premier, paving the way for Leo Varadkar to succeed him in a planned handover of power.

Mr Varadkar will later be confirmed as Taoiseach for the second time following a special sitting of the Dail parliament in Dublin.

The Fine Gael leader is replacing Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin at the head of government under the terms of a coalition deal struck in 2020.

Mr Martin formally tendered his resignation during an audience with Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins at the presidential residence at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin on Saturday morning. He was accompanied by his wife Mary.

Mr Martin said it had been “the honour of a lifetime” to serve the public as taoiseach.

In a video posted on social media Mr Martin said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank the many, many people across the length and breadth of the country for your courtesy and kindness, as I met you on many, many engagements.

“I’m looking forward to the second phase of this Government. We’ve done a lot in the first phase but we still have a lot to do.”

Setting aside almost a century of animosity, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, two parties forged out of Ireland’s Civil War of the 1920s, agreed to share power together in 2020 after that year’s inconclusive general election result.

From left: Transport Minister Eamon Ryan, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar Credit: Niall Carson/PA

Ireland’s Green Party also joined the coalition.

While Fianna Fail emerged from the 2020 poll narrowly winning the most seats (38), Sinn Fein (which won 37 seats) secured the most first preference votes.

Sinn Fein accused its two main rivals of conspiring to keep it out of power and has continued to heavily criticise the coalition administration in its role as the main opposition party in the Dail.

The dynamic between the three big parties is set to dominate the narrative of Irish politics leading up to the next general election, which has to take place before spring 2025.

Mr Varadkar previously served as taoiseach from 2017 to 2020 at the head of a minority Fine Gael administration that relied on a confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fail to maintain power.

The mid-term switch of premiers will also prompt a cabinet reshuffle in Dublin, however, there is expected to be minimal movement among the departmental portfolios.

Mr Martin will become deputy premier (tanaiste) and will also take on a ministerial post.

Mr Varadkar held the enterprise brief when he served as tanaiste and will vacate that post upon becoming taoiseach.

One scenario could see Mr Martin become Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, a position he held more than a decade ago.

Current foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney could then potentially replace his party leader Mr Varadkar at the helm of the department of enterprise.

It has already been agreed as part of the coalition agreement that Fine Gael Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe and Fianna Fail Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will switch roles.

Mr Varadkar will be nominated taoiseach during a sitting of the Dail on Saturday morning.

The Fine Gael leader will then himself travel to Mr Higgins’ residence at Aras an Uachtarain where his appointment will be confirmed.

Cabinet colleagues will also be confirmed in office by the president later in the day before the new-look government is expected to hold its first meeting.

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