The Irish Times view on the confidence-and-supply deal: A temporary renewal of vows

Micheál Martin has acted in the national interest, but his renewal of the deal also serves his party well

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has acted wisely by offering to extend the confidence and supply arrangement with the Fine Gael-led Government under Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for another year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has acted wisely by offering to extend the confidence and supply arrangement with the Fine Gael-led Government under Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for another year. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has acted wisely by offering to extend the confidence and supply arrangement with the Fine Gael-led Government for another year. At a time when economic chaos arising from a no-deal Brexit is a real possibility, it is a decision which serves the national interest.

The contrast between the behaviour of the two biggest parties in the Dáil since the inconclusive general election of February 2016 and that of the two largest parties in Westminster since the Brexit referendum of the same year reflects a great deal of credit on the Irish political system and its ability to face up to serious challenges in a responsible manner.

The competition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael has not gone away but the ability of the two parties to set aside their differences in the interests of political stability at such a critical time is commendable.

Speaking in the Dáil, Martin cited the current chaos in the British political system as meaning that a no-deal Brexit is now more likely and that the Irish political system had to respond because business as usual was not acceptable.

Martin’s decision is not entirely due to political altruism. Cold calculation is also involved, as Fianna Fáil would not be thanked for triggering an election at such a critical time. And in any case, opinion polls do not suggest that the party is capable of overhauling Fine Gael in the immediate future.

Nonetheless, the offer to extend the current arrangement is what the State needs and it represents a level of political maturity that should pay dividends from the electorate in the long term. Welcoming Martin’s initiative, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he expected the extension of the agreement to go well into 2020.

There are some prominent figures in Fianna Fáil and many in the party organisation who were opposed to renewing the confidence-and-supply deal and longed for a return to the days of strong and intractable opposition, believing that is the only way the party will return to power. Martin has shown political courage and skill in resisting such pressure and he has the backing of the bulk of his parliamentary party for his initiative, even if some TDs are going along reluctantly.

One of the strong arguments he has made to his parliamentary party is that by honouring the confidence-and-supply agreement, Fianna Fáil has restored some of the trust forfeited by the party in the events that led to the financial crash and the tough decisions that were required to save the country from disaster in its aftermath.

By acting responsibly in the face of the current threat to the welfare of the Irish people, Martin has made an important move not simply in helping to restore trust in his own party but in enhancing confidence in politics in general.

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