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Finally a government as Martin set to lead country as Taoiseach

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Micheal Martin has agreed a deal with Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Micheal Martin has agreed a deal with Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Micheal Martin has agreed a deal with Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Two Taoisigh are set to lead the country through the lifetime of the next government.

For the first time in the history of the State, the Office of the Taoiseach will be rotated between two party leaders.

Four months after the General Election, a landmark agreement signed off by the leaders of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party will result in significant overhaul of the administration of power.

The parties also agreed on a radical programme for government which makes significant commitments on climate change, housing and transport.

Last night, Micheal Martin was in touching distance of becoming Taoiseach - but will have to first convince his party membership to back the deal.

However, if finally elected Taoiseach, he will have to step aside on December 15, 2022, and allow Leo Varadkar to take over.

Mr Varadkar is set to become Tanaiste, but the office will be given increased powers and functions. The Fine Gael leader said he will also choose a Cabinet ministry which he will oversee while serving as Tanaiste.

Eamon Ryan will also have a new office in the Department of the Taoiseach which will give him oversight of the government decision-making process.

The three leaders all made major concessions to sign off on a programme for government.

Mr Varadkar gave up on Fine Gael's demand that the State pension age increase to 67 next year after Mr Martin insisted the hike should be stopped.

The increase will now be delayed for a year pending the outcome of Commission on Pensions. Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said the decision to delay the increase will cost €400m.

However, Fine Gael did secure a commitment that the next government will cut income tax if the economy begins to improve, despite resistance from the other parties.

The Green Party dropped its demand on banning imported goods from Israeli occupied territories.

Contentious

The future of Covid-19 unemployment payments and the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme will be among the first tough decisions taken by the proposed new government.

Decisions on both schemes brought in to help people who lost their jobs in the coronavirus crisis and shield those who kept them, will be highly contentious.

Their prioritisation in the programme for government underlines the challenges that will face the new coalition from day one of a new administration.

Also included in the July stimulus will be new taskforces, including ministers, independent experts and stakeholders for each sector of the economy.

The enactment of legislation for a new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme is also listed among "immediate actions".

A National Economic Plan is to be set out in October on the same day as Budget 2021 for charting the "longer-term jobs-led recovery".

"Underpinning the National Economic Plan will be the need to protect the Irish workforce and economy to the greatest extent possible from future shocks due to another public health crisis, Brexit, digital transformation and climate change," the document says.

The National Retrofitting Plan is also set to be announced on Budget Day - with an aim to increase energy efficiency in at least 500,000 homes by 2030. Homes will be grouped together to reduce costs and retrofitting will start in the midlands.

The proposed new government is promising jobs-led recovery from the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 12 'missions' in the proposed programme for government agreed between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party.

Under plans for "re- igniting and renewing the economy", the focus will be to "get people back to work as soon as possible".

There is a target of 200,000 new jobs by 2025 "as well as helping people currently unemployed due to Covid-19 back to work."

The aim is to create a "stronger, fairer and more sustainable economy prepared for the next phase of disruptive technologies and on a pathway to a low-carbon future".

The jobs-led recovery will depend on Ireland's ability to secure markets for our goods and services and attract investment into the country.

The document also highlights the importance of a "just transition" as fossil fuel dependence is ended and there is an ambition to "create economic opportunity through climate action".

Fairer

Meanwhile, a group of more than 50 Fianna Fail councillors and 1,000 party members has launched a campaign to "defeat" the newly agreed programme for government.

In a statement, the group calling itself 'Fairer Future' insisted the agreement will not deliver change.

The councillors from Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Leitrim, Louth, Meath, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford said the document "confirmed their fears" that the new government will be a "continuation of status quo politics".