LONDON — The Irish Parliament elected a new prime minister and a coalition government Thursday, ending a monthlong political crisis.
The new premier is John Bruton, head of the Fine Gael party, which had been in opposition in recent governments headed by Albert Reynolds, leader of the Fianna Fail Party, Ireland's largest.
Bruton, 47, who won by an 85-74 vote in Parliament, will head a coalition that includes the Democratic Left Party and the Labor Party, which had been in previous coalition governments.
The crisis began when Reynolds lost a parliamentary vote of confidence because of his handling of a child-molestation case involving a Roman Catholic priest.
But Bruton did not sail easily into the new post: Democratic Left members spent the day arguing about whether they should join the government because they wanted to be assured of the appropriate number of Cabinet and sub-Cabinet posts in the new administration.
The Fine Gael Party's ties to the Irish Republican Army are not as close as those of the former ruling party, Fianna Fail, but Bruton said Thursday that addressing himself to the Northern Ireland peace process would be a priority.
And Peter Robinson, a member of Parliament and proponent of continued British control of Northern Ireland, said Bruton has a greater understanding of the loyalist position than do most members of the Irish Parliament.
Bertie Ahern, who replaced Reynolds as leader of Fianna Fail, pledged full cooperation with Bruton's coalition and paid tribute to Reynolds for his work toward peace in Northern Ireland. It was Reynolds and British Prime Minister John Major who offered separatists a place at peace talks one year ago.
Since then, both the IRA and Protestant paramilitary groups have observed a cease-fire in Northern Ireland, and talks have been held with the British government.
Meanwhile, in Belfast, the British government held talks with the militant Protestant unionist groups, which are British loyalists, as officials did last week with Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA.
Officials said the talks had been congenial, though the meeting focused on the touchy issue of paramilitaries in Northern Ireland giving up their weapons and explosives.
In London, Major declared in Parliament that terrorist weapons in Northern Ireland must be "decommissioned and destroyed" before the government enters full-scale talks with either Sinn Fein or loyalist paramilitary groups.
He told the House of Commons that he is "not concerned" whether the arms are actually surrendered, as long as they are done away with before substantive talks begin.