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Is a Cork Taoiseach just weeks away?

Thursday, 18th June, 2020 10:07am

So it looks like we may get a new government. And a new Taoiseach, a Cork Taoiseach as it happens.

The first Cork Taoiseach since Jack Lynch in 1979 is set to be Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin, or Mikhail Martin as British Cabinet Officer Michael Gove called him in the House of Commons on Tuesday!

It could have been his constituency colleague, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, had he won the leadership battle against Leo Varadkar a few years ago.

Instead, Martin, Coveney and Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath, all of Cork South Central, are set to be in the cabinet together.

That is, if the members of Fine Gael (FG), Fianna Fáil (FF) and the Green Party (GP) give the go ahead. They are set to vote on the Programme for Government which was published this week by the three parties after weeks of negotiations.

The results of the FF, FG and GP membership votes on the deal are all set to be announced on 26 June. Parliamentary party members from the three parties already endorsed the Programme for Government on Monday.

At this stage of his career, and after leading Fianna Fáil for so long, Micheál Martin needs to be Taoiseach sooner rather than later. And with this week’s polls looking so ominous for FF, he will not want another general election.

The latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll was released this week and Fianna Fáil’s support dropped nine to 14 per cent, while Fine Gael’s surged 17 points higher to 37 per cent. Sinn Féin remained the same at 25 per cent. The Greens were up four to 12 per cent.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s personal approval rating soared to 75 per cent, up an incredible 45 points. Micheál Martin’s personal approval is itself up 16 to 46 per cent. Other countries have also seen governments and leaders be boosted in their ratings during the pandemic.

It is the first such poll since the general election and shows how Fine Gael’s popularity has been revived by the pandemic.

In essence, Micheál Martin’s bid to be Taoiseach and his political future may rely on his ability to get his own party to pass the Programme, as well as the Green Party - a much more volatile group.

There is considerable opposition within FF to the deal. More than 50 FF councillors launched Fairer Future, a group campaigning to defeat the Programme for Government, this week.

Former Fianna Fáil deputy leader Eamon Ó Cuív said he had voted against the Programme for Government at the FF parliamentary party on Monday night. He said with the parliamentary party behind it, the deal will “probably get through”.

Cllr Ian Doyle (FF), the outgoing County Mayor of Cork, said he is against the coalition “politically”, although he does “fully support Martin as Taoiseach” when he spoke to Patricia Messinger on C103’s ‘Cork Today Show’ yesterday.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that there will be a political crisis if the Programme for Government is rejected by the membership of the GP and FF.

The Green Party faces the toughest battle in getting two thirds of its membership of over 3,000 to ratify the programme.

Speaking on RTÉ’s ‘Prime Time’ on Tuesday, Cork city councillor Lorna Bogue (GP) said that she thought it would be difficult for the deal to be passed by the Green Party membership. Midleton GP Cllr Liam Quaide also has reservations.

However Green Party city councillor Dan Boyle told the Cork Independent that he will vote in favour of the agreement.

Green TD Neassa Hourigan, a member of the negotiating team, said that while the deal was probably the best deal they could have gotten in the circumstances, she can’t give it her full endorsement.

So, a new Cork Taoiseach in a few weeks looks far from a done deal from where I’m sitting.

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