The Irish Times view on the end of the Dáil term: calm before the storms of autumn
On the legislative front, the past Dáil session produced very little
Fine Gael under Leo Varadkar did well in the European elections but had a disappointing performance in the locals. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Dáil has adjourned for the summer recess but Brexit, the issue which dominated all others during the past session, will continue to be the overriding concern of the Government and of the entire political system in the coming months. The publication earlier this week of the Government’s 100-page contingency plan has brought home to everyone just how dire the consequences of a no-deal Brexit are likely to be. For the moment there is nothing anybody in Dublin can do except watch how British politics unfolds while preparing for the worst.
Aside from Brexit the biggest political developments in the past few months were the European and local elections which gave all of the parties in the Dáil something to think about. Fine Gael did well in the European elections but had a disappointing performance in the locals. Fianna Fáil’s ability to outpoll Fine Gael in the local elections has been a significant morale boost for the party and has given it grounds for believing that Micheál Martin has a realistic chance of becoming the next Taoiseach.
For Sinn Féin the scale of the unexpected losses in both elections was a bitter disappointment and raised questions about the leadership style of Mary Lou McDonald. Unless there is a significant improvement the party stands to lose seats in the next general election. The same applies to the smaller left wing parties. The Greens made significant gains and all the signs are that the party is on course to win new seats in Dublin. There was also relatively good news for the Labour Party, whose decline has halted, and for the Social Democrats. The upshot is that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be in no hurry to call a general election, but events could take matters out of his hands.
On the legislative front the past Dáil session produced very little, mainly because the Government can only pass Bills approved by Fianna Fáil. Some popular pieces of legislation like the Microbeads Bill and the Citizens Assembly Bill got through with the consent of the Opposition as did the Judicial Council Bill.
On the other hand, the Government has been fighting a rearguard action through the device of requiring a money message to block a range of Bills pushed through against its wishes by the Opposition parties. A lengthy Opposition filibuster delayed the passage of the Judicial Appointments Bill through the Seanad and committee stage only passed this week. The flawed Bill, which is the pet project of Minister for Transport Shane Ross, will move on to its final stages in the autumn, but its enactment is far from assured.
Issues like the massive cost overrun on the National Children’s Hospital and the tender for the national broadband plan generated more controversy than any piece of legislation in the last session and they too will undoubtedly return in the autumn.