The Dáil has approved the Programme for Government by 103 votes to 46 after four hours of debate this afternoon.

The Opposition criticised the document as being long on rhetoric and short on substance, but Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it reflected the verdict of the Irish electorate.

Earlier, Mr Kenny faced his first Leaders' Questions as Taoiseach.

In his opening remarks on the programme, the Taoiseach said it aims to restore confidence in the country.

The Government will restore Ireland's reputation on the international stage, he said.

It will not compromise on the 12.5% corporation tax rate, he said, adding that it was a core element of its fiscal strategy.

The programme contains the high standards that the public demand, he said.

The Taoiseach said he is under no illusions of the scale of the challenges ahead, but said we now have a Government capable of strong and stable leadership.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the programme drew on the best of both parties bringing new ideas and hope to leadership.

The parties are united in the national interest, he said, and said that the work of Government would be shaped by learning from the bitter lessons of the past.

The agenda for reform would pick up where Labour left off when it was last in Government, he added.

He also vowed that the Government would break the links with big business and make good corporate governance the norm.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the Government had got the support of 56% of the people - who had voted for both parties - but that a larger majority wished it well.

He said the prime focus of the Government was economic recovery and its prime element, jobs.

Opposition reaction

Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin criticised the programme, saying it contains an unusually high number of abandoned election promises.

Deputy Martin said the most striking example of this was the appointment of 15 junior ministers by the Government, as opposed to the 12 Fine Gael promised during the campaign.

The document is long on rhetoric and short on substance, he said, adding that there was a large number of areas where the last Government's policies have been adopted.

Micheál Martin criticised the lack of detail in the programme on the proposed strategic investment bank.

The last thing the taxpayer needed was another bank to support, he said, saying it was a potential source of instability at a time when it was least desired.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív criticised the practice of abandoning Irish language names for key public bodies.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described the programme as the same Fianna Fáil austerity package wrapped up and presented as something new.

The programme is filled with fudge and reviews with the important issues kicked up the road, he said.

Mr Adams accused the governing parties of cobbling together the programme to facilitate ministerial ambitions.

His party colleague, Pádraig MacLochlainn, said the Government needed to stand up to our European partners on the EU-IMF deal and not just partake in 'sideshows' around corporate tax and interest rates.

Mr Kenny's pay reduction would not cut it with working people, he said, who are struggling to pay their bills.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett called for the EU-IMF package to be put to the Irish people in a referendum.

The people should have their say on whether the country should go through with what he called an unsustainable and unjust package, he said.

Deputy Boyd Barrett also called on the Government to go after the 300 Irish citizens who are collectively worth €57bn.

He said their combined wealth had increased by over €6.5bn in the past year, at a time when workers and those on social welfare were being hit for a similar amount.

Independent Deputy Shane Ross told the House that there was an alarming similarity between the policies of this Government and the last.

He echoed the warning of Micheál Martin telling the Taoiseach to be honest of the origin of the policies he is pursuing, adding that the Government was already 'walking in the Fianna Fáil swamp' and were 'sinking in the quicksand'.

He also told the Taoiseach to be careful when retreating from promises made during the election.

Earlier, the Government won a vote 122-28 after Opposition complaints that not enough time was being set aside to debate the document. The debate is due to conclude at 7.30pm.

During Leaders' Questions earlier, Mr Kenny took questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams and from the technical group of independents, represented by the United Left Alliance's Joe Higgins.

The Taoiseach repeated his promise that no more money will be put into the banks, beyond what is already committed, until it is clear how that responsibility is to be shared.

He was replying to questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

St Patrick's Day visits

Traditionally, the Dáil does not sit for the week in which St Patrick's Day falls, and Government ministers fulfil obligations overseas.

The Coalition Government has said that this year there are to be 'fewer, shorter and more focused trips' for St Patrick's Day.

With Seanad elections pending, the Upper House has been adjourned indefinitely.

Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers will leave for Washington today to begin a week of business appointments in the US capital ahead of St Patrick's Day.

On 17 March, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness will meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and plan to make a courtesy call with President Barack Obama.

They will return home on Friday.

Lenihan appointed Fianna Fáil deputy leader

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has announced that he has appointed former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan as deputy leader of the party.

Mr Martin also announced that Seán Ó Fearghail has been appointed as the party whip.

In a statement this evening, Mr Martin gave his backing to ten of the party's candidates in the upcoming Seanad elections, saying they offer the best hope for the renewal of the party.

The party's candidates are Seán Connick, Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, Senator James Carroll, Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, Thomas Byrne, Senator Darragh O'Brien, Cllr Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Averil Power, Senator Marc MacSharry and Cllr Kenneth O'Flynn.