Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced that he would likely be the leader of the opposition but also added that his party would be willing to help form the government if Sinn Féin, the second-largest party with 37 seats, fails to do so. In the parliamentary elections held on February 8, Varadkar’s Fine Gael party received a huge setback and lost 15 seats compared to 2016 elections.
The loss in vote share, and eventually in the number of seats, was mainly due to the surge of Sinn Féin which increased its seats by 14. Sinn Fein, a party historically linked with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), depended on its poll promises of resolving the housing crisis and improving the healthcare.
Varadkar was relying on Brexit, UK’s official departure from the European Union, to secure a new term but voters apparently decided the election on domestic issues. Before the elections, the Fine Gael leader had welcomed the Brexit deal calling it a ‘unique solution’ for Northern Ireland and said that the new Brexit agreement respects the region’s unique history and geography.
Fianna Fáil emerged as the single largest party after the results got declared but it also lost six seats compared to 2016. The results were encouraging for the Green Party as well which recorded its best performance ever with 12 seats, an improvement of 10 seats from 2016.
Speaking to reporters, the Indian-origin Prime Minister conceded defeat and said that they were absolutely willing to sit in the opposition, putting the onus on Sinn Féin to form the government. Varadkar said that his party is willing to talk for a possible coalition with other parties if Fine Gael is needed for providing political stability. The Irish PM has not shown willingness to form a coalition with Sein Féin and, referring to the latter's ideological leaning, he said that the investors would rethink about their future in Ireland if the international trade policy would lean leftward.
(With inputs from agencies)