Coalition agrees to joint rule in Ireland
LONDON – Ireland’s two longtime opposition parties agreed Sunday to rule the country together after an election in which the previous government suffered a crushing defeat after the country’s economic collapse.
The leaders of Fine Gael and the Labor Party said they would form a coalition to govern the country, whose once-dynamic economy imploded during the global financial meltdown and whose disastrous finances forced officials to seek a humiliating international bailout.
The new coalition said it would follow through on the previous government’s pledge to reduce Ireland’s staggering budget deficit. But it gave notice that it would try to win more favorable terms for the $113 billion lifeline that the International Monetary Fund and the European Union offered Dublin in November.
Anger over the rescue package, and the flawed policies that led to an unsustainable boom based on an inflated property market, resulted in a rout of the storied Fianna Fail party in the Feb. 26 election. The party, which has ruled Ireland for most of its eight decades as an independent nation, is widely blamed for the economic situation and managed to keep only 20 seats in the 166-member parliament, about a quarter of the number it won four years ago.
It was the first time since 1932 that the party did not win the most seats in an incoming parliament.
The agreement between Fine Gael, which won 76 seats, and Labor, with 37, ends a 14-year lock on government by Fianna Fail. The coalition will be headed by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, a former schoolteacher.