Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar resigned Thursday, but remained as interim leader while the country's three main parties are fighting for coalition talks after an inconclusive election.
Varadkar announced President Michael Higgins to resign as Taoiseach or Prime Minister after the first session of the Irish House of Commons since a February 8 election that radically transformed the political landscape.
"In accordance with the constitution, the Taoiseach and government will continue to perform their duties until successors are appointed," a government statement said.
The parties in the 160-seat chamber – the Dail – convened and nominated candidates to lead a new government as Taoiseach. However, since no majority was commanded, it was postponed until March 5.
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald received the most votes that supported her.
At 45, it was far less than the 80 that was needed for office, but it was a symbolic victory that reflected the nationalist party's upswing in the elections.
Sinn Fein, who once served as the political wing of the paramilitary Irish Republican Army (IRA), became the second largest party with 37 seats, thereby breaking the historic duopoly of center-right parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
"The people who vote for us don't go anywhere," said McDonald.
"We are committed to representing them well and doing our best to achieve this government of change – and that is exactly what we want to do."
"A government for change"
McDonald surpassed the 36 votes that Varadkar supported to continue as prime minister after his Fine Gael party slipped to third place in the 35-seat election.
"The responsibility rests with those who made enormous promises to change people during these elections and who have been given the mandate to bring a government program to the Dail for approval," Varadkar said in parliament before leaving to resign.
"If you can't, you should say it and be frank and honest about your failure and the empty promises you made."
Micheal Martin's Fianna Fail party won the most seats in the elections at 38, but suffered significant losses in 2016.
At the competition on Thursday, he received the support of 41 legislators.
Sinn Fein has historically been associated with the IRA, which fought for decades against British rule in Northern Ireland until a peace agreement largely ended violence in the late 1990s, killing more than 3,000 people on all sides.
It won the referendum with 24.5 percent of the first preference vote and won 14 seats by attracting voters with a campaign that focused on Ireland's housing shortage and health crisis.
But its flagship policy of Irish unity is likely to be a major issue when it comes to power.
She wants a referendum on the union of the two parts of the island within five years.
At least three parties are needed to form a majority government in the Dail.
But with the three largest who refused to work with the newly elected spokesman, Sean O Fearghail said the challenge of forming a government had remained "substantial."
Fianna Fail and Fine Gael both excluded working with Sinn Fein, also because of their connection to past violence.
Varadkar informed the state broadcaster RTE on Monday that he was ready to join the opposition.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein said on Wednesday that it was "intensifying" negotiations with smaller parties and independents seeking "a government for change."
Conversations can take some time and lead to new elections in which Sinn Fein could emerge as a favorite.
After a vote in 2016, it took 70 days for a minority coalition government under Fine Gael to form, backed by Fianna Fail in a trust and supply agreement.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)