[DUBLIN] Ireland's parliament re-elected Enda Kenny as prime minister at the head of a minority government on Friday following a deal aimed at a slight easing of austerity after more than two months of impasse.
Mr Kenny won the vote by 59 in favour and 49 against, in the fourth attempt to appoint a prime minister since an inconclusive general election in February, thanks to the support of independent lawmakers and the consent of the main opposition Fianna Fail party.
"This government has much to do. Our country faces many challenges - that was the message that the people gave during the election and has been repeated by so many of you," Mr Kenny said in his acceptance speech.
"The new government has listened to that message and we will act on that message." Mr Kenny's Fine Gael party last week secured a deal that arch-rivals Fianna Fail would abstain on the vote, allowing him to form a minority government.
The agreement between the parties means that Fianna Fail will back Fine Gael and independents on key confidence votes in return for having a number of its policies implemented from the opposition benches.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the deal would remain in place at least until the end of 2018.
The draft plan for government includes a commitment to 6.75 billion euros (S$10.5 billion) in additional public spending over the next five years and the suspension of controversial water charges.
However, the new government is widely viewed as offering more of the same when it comes to the economy.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have historic differences but both are essentially centre-right and few commentators believe the composition of the new government will herald a radical change in direction.
"It will be largely business as usual," political analyst Johnny Fallon told AFP.
"There will be some tweaks around the edges to accommodate the demands of the independents but these will be relatively minor in the grand scheme of things."
Welcoming Mr Kenny's re-election, Ireland's main business lobby group, Ibec, warned in a statement that "a minority government will undoubtedly face greater challenges in securing the necessary support for key initiatives".
In a two-hour void before the vote in parliament as deputies waited for the independents to hammer out a last-minute deal to support Mr Kenny, opposition speakers took the opportunity to demand an end to the austerity measures deployed by Mr Kenny's last government.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the measures outlined in the draft programme for government would fail to alleviate the crises in housing and the health services or to deliver a blueprint for a fairer Ireland.
"This arrangement is a masterclass in waffle and bluster; no real ambition, no big ideas," he said.
"Never was so much negotiated for so long for so little." Fine Gael, which won 50 seats at the election as against 44 for Fianna Fail in the 158-seat Dail, or lower house of parliament.