Micheál Martin has said it will be “an honour and a privilege” to be elected Taoiseach tomorrow.
Speaking to The Echo after Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party passed the programme for government, Mr Martin thanked his party and his constituents in Cork South Central who have given him support over the years.
The constituency is set to become a political powerhouse as three of the four sitting TDs are expected to hold Cabinet positions by tomorrow evening.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath and Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney are expected to be given ministerial portfolios.
“Obviously it’s very difficult because we don’t have enough places for the talented people that are available to take them,” said Mr Martin.
Mr Martin said that he was delighted with the overwhelming endorsement of the programme for government by all three parties.
“They want a government formed to deal with the enormous challenges that Covid-19 has created, both from the health perspective, the economic perspective, and the social perspective,” he said, adding that the public also wanted politicians to get on with forming a government.
Meanwhile, outgoing Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said a Cork Taoiseach is something that will be “very strongly welcomed across Cork city and county”.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Coveney wished Mr Martin well in his new role, and said it would mean positive news for Cork.
“Micheál will be Taoiseach, and certainly the expectation is that Michael McGrath will also be a senior minister,” he said.
“If I’m privileged enough to be given the responsibility of a ministry again I’ll relish that and I’ll do my best for Cork, but also for the country.
“I think we have a template for growth and expansion for Cork City in particular that’s very exciting. I hope that the new Government, that does have a number of very senior politicians in the Cork city constituencies, will be able to deliver on that potential.
“Having a Cork Taoiseach, I know, is something that will be very strongly welcomed across Cork city and county. I wish Micheál well in that challenge and I look forward to working with him.”
His constituency and colleague Michael McGrath didn’t wish to speculate on his potential position at the Cabinet table, but said it would be a privilege to get a top position.
“If that does come to pass I will work morning, noon and night to do the best I can for the people I represent,” he told The Echo.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the emphatic manner of the endorsement of the three parties. We have a huge job of work ahead of us and we can certainly guarantee people that we will leave no stone unturned in working to improve the lives of people in Cork and right across the country.”
Meanwhile, the Green Party’s majority of 76% in favour of the programme for government took many by surprise, including within the party itself.
Cork Green Party councillor Dan Boyle was one of those who expected a much tighter margin.
“I am very surprised. It’s not what I anticipated,” he said. “I expected it to be closer. I think people have made a decision despite reservations they may have.
“I’m pleased but it’s not something I celebrate. It’s a responsibility we have to take. It’s something that we need to put in practice in terms of the policies we put before the people. Most importantly we need to bring out party together and we need to use the voice of those who questioned us going into Government to question us being in Government.
“I think for the Green Party to be as strong as it can be in Government, it needs those dissenting voices.”
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said: “There’s a sense of responsibility on us now because we do have a job to do.
“We have to go in and help work with our coalition partners in government in actually getting our country out of a really severe economic crisis.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin, the party which won the popular vote in the general election, is set to return to the opposition benches.
However, the party’s deputy Dáil leader Pearse Doherty TD said: “Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will be faced with the most determined opposition they have ever seen because Sinn Féin will stand up for ordinary workers and families.”
Conor Healy, Cork Chamber CEO, said that the agreement on a programme for government provides welcome reassurance for business.
“Cork businesses saw great stability in the capital and spatial commitments of Ireland 2040, and this was proven by the incredible level of development in our city region over the past two years,” he said.
“There is no shortage of vision and policy for Cork and this Government now has the opportunity to create a visible legacy for all of Cork to see.”