Irish Republic swears in Enda Kenny as new leader

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Media captionEnda Kenny was elected in a parliamentary vote

The Irish parliament has officially elected Enda Kenny as taoiseach (prime minister), to lead a new government.

Mr Kenny's centre-right Fine Gael won last month's general election, three months after the previous government accepted an EU/IMF 85bn euro bail-out.

Promising a better future, he told the Dail (parliament) he was entering into a "covenant with the Irish people".

"Honesty is not just the best policy, it is our only policy. Because the people have always the right to know."

Fine Gael has agreed a coalition with the centre-left Labour Party which came second in the election.

Fianna Fail, which was punished by voters for presiding over the collapse of Ireland's so-called "Celtic Tiger" economy, could only muster 20 seats and a distant third place.

After his colleagues backed his nomination by 117 votes to 27, Mr Kenny said that the Irish Republic was experiencing its "darkest hour before the dawn" but he emphasised that the coalition had a "fair and truly radical programme".

'Robust opposition'

When the new parliament convened at midday, one of its first actions was to elect Sean Barrett as ceann comhairle (Speaker); the youngest member of the Dail, Simon Harris, then formally nominated his party colleague, Enda Kenny, as prime minister.

Image caption Mr Adams gave up his seats in the British parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly

Among the speakers making clear their opposition to Mr Kenny was Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams who was making his first appearance in the Dail.

Mr Adams, who gave up his West Belfast seat in the British parliament as well as his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly to stand in the election, promised "robust" opposition but said his party "will not oppose the government just for the sake of it".

After receiving his seal of office from President Mary McAleese, the new prime minister will then name the members of his government.

Mr Kenny's cabinet is expected to have 10 Fine Gael and five Labour members.

The two parties' programme for government includes wide-ranging proposals to deal with the country's massive fiscal deficit.

The outgoing cabinet held its last meeting at government buildings in Dublin on Tuesday.

Thirty-four outgoing Fianna Fail members of the Dail failed to be re-elected in last month's poll, while the party's coalition partner, the Greens, lost all six of their seats.