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Irish Parliament elects new prime minister

Ireland’s new prime minister, Enda Kenny, was greeted by Fine Gael party members in Dublin yesterday. Ireland’s new prime minister, Enda Kenny, was greeted by Fine Gael party members in Dublin yesterday. (Peter Morrison/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 10, 2011

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DUBLIN — Ireland’s new Parliament elected soft-spoken Enda Kenny prime minister yesterday to lead a coalition government that faces immediate pressure to revive the nation’s debt-crippled economy.

Kenny, 59, vowed to solve a bank-bailout crisis that has overwhelmed Ireland’s finances and required an emergency rescue by the European Union and International Monetary Fund. He said terms of the EU-IMF loans must be renegotiated to make them more affordable for Ireland and enable the country’s recovery from record deficits and double-digit unemployment.

Kenny was elected prime minister unopposed with 117 of the Parliament’s 166 lawmakers voting “yes’’ to his candidacy. Just 27 opposed him. It was the first time in Irish history that a prime minister faced no rival candidate.

Kenny said his government faced “a task of rescuing our economy, of resuscitating our reputation, and of restoring our society.’’

He pledged to never sugarcoat the brutal facts of Ireland’s finances. But he called his rise to power “the first day of a journey to a better future. That future . . . when Ireland can again take charge of its own destiny.’’

Several hundred supporters from Kenny’s remote western power base of County Mayo cheered as he walked outside Parliament. Kenny, a former schoolteacher, is Ireland’s longest-serving lawmaker as Mayo’s representative since 1975.

He then traveled by government motorcade to receive his seal of office from Ireland’s ceremonial head of state, President Mary McAleese.

Later, Kenny unveiled a Cabinet composed of 10 lawmakers from his own conservative Fine Gael party and five from his government partners, the left-wing Labor Party.

Fine Gael deputy leader Michael Noonan becomes finance minister. As part of the EU-IMF loan pact, Ireland is supposed to slash $21 billion from its deficit spending over the next four years.

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