LEO Varadkar is set to return to power after the Irish parliament backed him to become the next taoiseach.
TDs in the Dail voted 87 to 62 to support the appointment of Fine Gael leader Varadkar, who replaces Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin as taoiseach.
Martin earlier formally resigned from the role, paving the way for Varadkar to succeed him in a planned handover of power at the top of the country’s three-party coalition government.
Varadkar, who will become taoiseach for a second time, will be officially confirmed as premier at an audience with the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins at his residence in Dublin later.
The Fine Gael leader is replacing the Fianna Fail leader as taoiseach under the terms of the coalition deal struck in 2020.
Martin tendered his resignation during an audience with President Higgins at the presidential residence at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin on Saturday morning. He was accompanied by his wife Mary.
Martin said it has been “the honour of a lifetime” to serve the public as taoiseach.
Addressing the Dail at the start of Saturday’s special sitting, he said: “It is both a privilege and a responsibility to serve as head of government in a free and democratic republic.
“I have been deeply conscious of this every day I have held the office of Taoiseach. I have sought always to work on behalf of all the Irish people and not just those who support my party and our colleagues in government.”
After Martin addressed the Dail, two of Varadkar’s Fine Gael colleagues proposed and seconded a motion nominating him as taoiseach.
Varadkar’s parents, Miriam and Ashok, and his partner, Matthew Barrett, were among those who watched on from the gallery.
Parties were then given an opportunity to comment on the motion.
Martin, speaking for Fianna Fail, paid tribute to his one-time fierce political rival.
“I want to thank him for his co-operation over the last two-and-a-half years and his dedicated work,” he said.
“The Government has worked on the many enormous pressures but we’ve succeeded in keeping our focus on moving our country forward. I look forward to maintaining this spirit during the rest of our term.”
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 in 2020 after that year’s inconclusive general election result.
Ireland’s Green Party also joined the coalition.
Supporting Varadkar’s nomination, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan made a footballing analogy.
“It’s like half time. The captain’s armband will be passed from one to the other,” he said.
“But it will be a similar team and one thing I know, I’m absolutely certain for sure, that Micheal Martin, tanaiste (deputy premier) Micheal Martin, will be running out on Monday morning with the rest of us, determined to do everything we can to serve the Irish people.”
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.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of the main opposition party, criticised the government’s record as she opposed the nomination of Varadkar during Saturday’s Dail exchanges.
She said the resignation of Martin should trigger a General Election as she accused the coalition of being “out of touch, out of ideas and out of time”.
McDonald questioned the outgoing taoiseach’s claim the government is delivering.
“Well, the rest of us must live in a very different Ireland from you,” she said.
“We live in an Ireland where, during your time leading government, the housing emergency has gotten worse, where the crisis in health has gotten worse, where households struggle to get by.
“And you now pass the baton to Leo Varadkar at a time where more than 11,000 of our people are homeless, including more than 3,000 children. Close to one million people are on treatment waiting lists, many working families queue at food banks to get a hot meal.
“Surely you cannot count this as success?”
Varadkar previously served as taoiseach from 2017 to 2020 at the head of a minority Fine Gael administration which 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, but there is expected to be minimal movement among the departmental portfolios.
Martin will become deputy premier (tanaiste) and will also take on a ministerial post.
Varadkar held the enterprise brief when he served as tanaiste and will vacate that post upon becoming taoiseach.
One scenario could see Martin become Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, a position he held over a decade ago.
Current foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney could then potentially replace his party leader 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.
Cabinet members 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.