Ireland`s new leader vows to hit ground running

Fine Gael party sweeps to power in elections dominated by economic woes.

Dublin: Irish opposition leader Enda
Kenny was poised to take power on Sunday with a promise to move
quickly on amending an unpopular international bailout after
his Fine Gael party won historic elections.

Kenny looks certain to be taoiseach, or prime
minister, after the ruling Fianna Fail party of incumbent
Brian Cowen suffered a crushing defeat by voters angry at the
collapse of their once-booming economy and the subsequent

But the 59-year-old Fine Gael leader told supporters
in Dublin late yesterday there was "no time to lose, no hour
to waste" as he confronted the challenges ahead, not least the
form of the government he will lead.

The centrist party looks likely to fall short of a
majority in the 166-seat Dail, the lower house of parliament,
and several top Fine Gael figures have indicated a coalition
with the opposition Labour party was likely.

With 134 seats declared, Fine Gael had 61, with 36.1
per cent of the vote; Labour had 32 with 19.4 per cent, and
the dramatic collapse of Fianna Fail, which has dominated
Irish politics for 80 years, was underlined as it had just 14
seats with 17.4 per cent.

Fianna Fail`s former coalition partners, the Green
Party, also suffered, losing all of its six seats.

In addition, at least 11 independent lawmakers were
elected and the republican Sinn Fein party almost tripled its
seats to 13, including its president Gerry Adams, who enters
the Dail for the first time.

Kenny said he would be looking at his party`s options
today but stressed he would be "deciding on this very
quickly," saying it was important to international markets
that Ireland had a "stable and strong government".

He also vowed to move fast on a key campaign pledge to
renegotiate the 85-billion-euro (USD 115-billion) bailout
agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund
in November, which many Irish see as a humiliation.

"We`re going to move on this next week, I`ve already
had contacts with Europe this very day," Kenny said in his
first post-election TV interview.

Fine Gael director of elections Phil Hogan predicted
today his party would get about 77 seats, short of a majority.

He refused to comment on a coalition beyond saying Fine Gael
had "common ground" with other parties.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said his party was
"willing" to form a coalition government but said no talks had
started yet. "The initiative rests with Fine Gael, that`s a
call they have to make," he told RTE television.


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