The Irish Times view on government formation: the crisis must force a deal soon

The only feasible arrangement now is one that will have Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as its core

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will probably be able to strike a deal with the group of nine Regional Independents which would give it a slim Dáil majority but it would be preferable to involve at least one other party in a government that will face huge challenges in the months ahead. Photograph: Steve Humphreys/Pool via Reuters

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will probably be able to strike a deal with the group of nine Regional Independents which would give it a slim Dáil majority but it would be preferable to involve at least one other party in a government that will face huge challenges in the months ahead. Photograph: Steve Humphreys/Pool via Reuters

 

It is now almost two months since the general election and well past time that a new government was in place. Given the monumental scale of the health crisis facing the country, there is no longer any excuse for political gamesmanship. At this stage it is clear that the only feasible arrangement is one that will have Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as its core, so it is about time they got on with it and agreed a programme.

Both parties have, for valid reasons, ruled out a deal with Sinn Féin, so the only question is who else will join them in government formation. As they have only 72 seats out of the 160-member Dáil between them, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will need the support of other parties or groups to get a taoiseach elected and form a government.

It was widely expected in the immediate aftermath of the election that the Green Party would form part of a new coalition but it now seems clear that the party has no interest in getting involved. The Greens have made themselves look foolish by demanding a national government that no other party actually wants and which quite plainly would make decision-making slower at a time when the State needs to be in a position to take quick, clear decisions. Given the idea was so clearly a non-runner, there has to be a suspicion that it was merely an excuse for the Greens to avoid the responsibilities of office.

Labour has a proud history of doing right by the country in times of crisis and the need for a government with as broad a base of support as possible has never been greater

This is a pity because the Greens would be ideally placed in government to push the implementation of the climate change agenda on which they have been campaigning for so long. The party’s participation in government would also have fulfilled, at least in part, the mood for change which dominated the election campaign.

With the Greens opting out and the Social Democrats refusing to do a deal that involves Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the spotlight has come back on the Labour Party, which is currently in the throes of electing a new leader. The party’s Cork East TD Sean Sherlock has said that Labour should consider joining a coalition if no other option for government is available.

There is understandable opposition within the Labour Party to going into office at this stage given the way it was punished by the electorate for its last period in coalition. Still, Labour has a proud history of doing right by the country in times of crisis and the need for a government with as broad a base of support as possible has never been greater.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will probably be able to strike a deal with the group of nine Regional Independents which would give them a slim Dáil majority, but it would be preferable to involve at least one other party in a government that will face huge challenges in the months ahead.

The Dáil meets again on Thursday and while agreement on a new government is unlikely by that stage, the country cannot wait much longer.

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