Enda Kenny elected Taoiseach

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The Independent Online

Enda Kenny, leader of the Fine Gael party, has been formally elected Ireland's next Taoiseach.

The head of the centre-right party was voted in by an overwhelming majority in the Dail (Irish parliament) and will head a coalition Government with Labour.

Mr Kenny received a rapturous round of applause from members of the packed lower House and scores of invited guests.

Mr Kenny was elected in the Dail by 117 votes to 27.

Mr Kenny said he stood in office with deep gratitude and humility.

"I want to thank the members of the House for the honour that they have given me here today," he said.

As his wife Fionnuala and children looked on, Mr Kenny said he was making a "covenant" with the people that the new Government will be open with the public.

"In this current crisis ...honesty is not just our best policy it is our only policy," he said.

Mr Kenny said the programme for government was fair and truly radical.

"It is the first day of a journey to a better future," he said.

He added that, by the centenary of the 1916 Rising, Ireland would be the best small country in the world in which to do business, raise a family and grow old with dignity and respect.

"It is my honour and my gratitude to lead a Government that will rise to the challenge of changing the direction of our country and lead us to the better future of which I've spoken," he said.

Mr Kenny suspended the Dail until 4.40pm to travel to Aras an Uachtarain where he will be formally appointed by President Mary McAleese.

He received a standing ovation from other TDs.

Mr Kenny was nominated to be Taoiseach by the youngest member of the 31st Dail, Wicklow Fine Gael TD Simon Harris.

The nomination was supported by the leader of the outgoing ruling Fianna Fail party, Micheal Martin.

"It is clear Deputy Enda Kenny has been given a mandate by the people to take up the office of Taoiseach," Mr Martin said.

He also said Fianna Fail would not oppose the nomination of the new Government.

Mr Kenny will return to the Dail after receiving his seal of office from President McAleese, where he will unveil the make-up of the new Cabinet.

Fine Gael's Michael Noonan is widely expected to get the coveted finance portfolio, while Labour is tipped for the Attorney General post, giving the smaller party potentially six seats at the Cabinet table.

Other Fine Gael TDs tipped for a ministry include Programme for Government negotiators Phil Hogan and Alan Shatter, as well as Richard Bruton, Leo Varadkar, Sean Barrett, James Reilly, Simon Coveney and Jimmy Deenihan.

Labour hopefuls include former leaders Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn, Roisin Shortall and Brendan Howlin, with the party's finance spokesman, Joan Burton, widely expected to get the new finance brief with responsibility for expenditure and public sector reform.

Current Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is expected to take on a new foreign affairs and trade brief, as well as becoming Tanaiste (deputy prime minister).

Mr Kenny will face his first official engagement on Friday when he travels to Brussels for an extraordinary European Council meeting, where he will meet other heads of state.

In government the two parties have pledged to seek better repayment terms for last December's 85 billion euro (£73.15 billion) EU/IMF rescue package.