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DUBLIN, May 5 — Three of Ireland’s political parties agreed today to enter negotiations to form a government, months after an election that fractured the country’s political landscape.
The talks are set to start on Thursday as Ireland grapples with how to guide the nation out of coronavirus lockdown, which will be gradually lifted from May 18.
“The leaders of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens met today and agreed to commence formal negotiations for a programme for government,” a spokesman for Fianna Fail, the biggest party in parliament, said in a statement.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has been leading the country through the virus crisis in a caretaking capacity following the general election on February 8.
The vote saw his centre-right Fine Gael party routed, slipping to third place with only 35 seats.
Despite also suffering losses, Fine Gael’s historic rival Fianna Fail became the largest party with 38 seats.
Republican Sinn Fein surged, winning the popular vote with 24.5 per cent of first preferences in Ireland’s single transferable vote system.
The one-time fringe party, historically associated with the paramilitary Irish Republican Army (IRA), shocked the establishment by becoming the second-largest force in the Dail, Ireland’s lower house of parliament.
But it has found no suitable left-wing partners to form a coalition with and reach the 80-seat threshold required to take office.
Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party will form an 85 seat bloc if they forge a coalition.
The Irish press has speculated that party leaders could take turns in the prime ministerial position on a rotating basis.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail last month published a broad joint document aimed to bringing other parties to the table in coalition talks.
“We need a government with a clear majority that is strong enough to develop and deliver a programme of national recovery,” it said.
It also promised to form a department within the prime minister’s office “to work towards a consensus on a united island”. — AFP
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