The Irish Times view on government formation: the talking has gone on long enough

The country needs a government with a mandate, and it needs one immediately

For the Green Party under leader Eamon Ryan, it is clear the decision on whether to go into government is a difficult one, involving compromise with parties they believe to be at best historically ambivalent about, and at worst complicit in, man-made climate change. Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

For the Green Party under leader Eamon Ryan, it is clear the decision on whether to go into government is a difficult one, involving compromise with parties they believe to be at best historically ambivalent about, and at worst complicit in, man-made climate change. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Four months after the general election, the process of government formation will shortly reach a decisive stage for the three parties involved in the negotiations.

Deadlines are looming in the coming days. If the Oireachtas doesn’t pass votes renewing sections of the Offences Against the State Act by the end of June, special powers, including those underpinning the Special Criminal Court, will lapse, leaving an unprecedented lacuna in the State’s security and law enforcement apparatus. Legislation underpinning some of the special Covid-19 supports is also required.

For these votes to happen, the Government’s legal advice makes clear that the Seanad must be completed by the taoiseach’s nominees; for that to happen, a new taoiseach must be elected by the Dáil; for that to happen, the parties must reach agreement and have their members ratify it, a process which will take an estimated two weeks. So there is a real deadline approaching next week.

These are practical matters of governance that need attending to. But there is larger responsibility on the parties to provide a government; they must decide now whether they can live up to that responsibility.

For Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the decision to enter government in principle has been made by their leaders; they will make the best deal they can and stick with it. Even though there are lobbies in each party which oppose such a course of action, a refusal by the memberships to endorse a deal would be an extraordinary repudiation of Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, which they would be unlikely to survive.

For the Green Party, it is clear the decision is a more difficult one, involving compromise with parties they believe to be at best historically ambivalent about, and at worst complicit in, man-made climate change. The party has a big decision to make. But it is now time to go ahead and do so.

No more than Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the Green Party will not get everything they seek in the programme for government; they are, after all, a 7 per cent party, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael between them won 43 per cent of the vote at the general election.

But it is clear that the Greens now have an opportunity to play a significant part in the greenest government Ireland has ever had. The chance might not come again. And refusing to step up now could cause the party severe political damage in any subsequent election.

The country needs a government with a mandate, and it needs one immediately. It is the responsibility of those politicians who are in a position to form that government to do so.

They must make the best deal they can, and get on with it. The talking has gone on for long enough.

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