- Title: IRELAND: Main opposition parties look set to form coalition
- Date: 27th February 2011
- Summary: KENNY HOLDING A CHILD
- Embargoed: 14th March 2011 18:15
- Location: Ireland, Ireland
- Country: Ireland
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA2VSQ01Z918ZOW9BRP373ERXBV
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: The man set to lead Ireland's new government has moved to reassure European partners that stability is high on his agenda.
Enda Kenny, Fine Gael's leader, will form a coalition government with a record majority with the Labour Party after Fianna Fail suffered the biggest collapse in support for any Irish party and became the first euro zone government to be brought down by the debt crisis.
Arriving at the count in County Mayo to jubilant scenes on Saturday (February 26), Kenny said he was looking forward to working with his European counterparts.
"We want to send the message out to Europe and the world that we intend to provide strong and stable government and our country is open for business," he said.
Fine Gael supporters in Castlebar crowded into the town's theatre to see the count and the first Irish leader to come from the western county. "He's a good leader, a good communicator and he cares about Ireland and he cares about people and he will set this economy right," said Joe Mooney, wearing a Fine Gael sticker on his forehead.
Despite squabbling in the election campaign, Fine Gael and Labour have a history of working well together and with a sizeable majority should bring some stability back to Irish politics after the chaos of Fianna Fail's last days in office.
But the presence of Labour may intensify calls to renegotiate the terms of the international bailout and however strong the mandate, the government will come under pressure if economic growth falters and it has to make further cuts.
Fianna Fail, a former giant of Irish politics, looked set to lose more than 50 seats and be left with only around 20 lawmakers to share the opposition benches with a colourful mix of anti-bailout independents and Sinn Fein, best known as the political wing of the now-dormant Irish Republican Army (IRA).
In Dublin, Fianna Fail was expected to retain just one seat out of a possible 47, that of former finance minister Brian Lenihan, whose affable personality and fight with cancer outweighed his austerity budgets and the ignominy of the bailout.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was greeted with cheers and applause from supporters in his Dun Laoghaire constituency on Saturday (February 26) as he was easily returned to parliament.
Exit polls, which are traditionally very accurate, point to Labour winning a historic 20.5 percent of the vote.
Gilmore said former prime minister Brian Cowen's party got what it deserved.
"Ultimately this is political accountability because ultimately, the decisions that governments make, the decisions that ministers make - ultimately there is a day of reckoning and the day of reckoning is with the people. And that day of reckoning was yesterday and people have exercised their choice, they've decided that they were putting Fianna Fail out of office and that's reflected in this constituency as it is in other constituencies."
Gilmore said now was time the for change to get the economy moving.
"You can neither tax nor cut your way out of a recession. We have to grow jobs and grow the economy and that's been the focus the Labour party has had throughout this campaign and what we need to do to resolve our economic difficulties and yes I am very confident we can do that."
Ecstatic Labour supporters said the election will usher in a much-needed new era in Irish politics.
"It's not just a great day for Labour, it's a great day for Ireland. Be under no illusions about that. It really is a great day for Ireland," said Labour campaigner Una Fitzsimmons.
On the streets of Dublin, voters were glad that Fianna Fail did so badly in the polls.
"A kick in the backside and let them know you can't just start ruining people's lives and expect to carry on," said one man.
Manual counting continues, with a full result not expected until Sunday (February 27)
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