Forming a government – an urgent task
Sir, – There is something wrong with a political culture where more parties want to be in opposition rather than government.
Fine Gael initially responded to its election defeat by saying it would go into opposition.
Sinn Féin started off by saying that it wanted to enter government but quickly settled back into an opposition role when it was clear it didn’t actually have the numbers to lead a government.
The Labour Party decided to go into opposition.
The Greens ruled themselves out by setting conditions they knew no one else would agree to.
The hard-left parties never showed any interest in entering a government unless it was formed entirely on the basis of their policies. Most Independents are keeping quiet.
All seem to be aware that the electorate has a habit of punishing any party in government regardless of how well or badly they perform in office.
So does this tell us that we are a nation of complainers rather than doers?
That we elect politicians who can emote our frustrations but who can’t actually get anything done?
Only Fianna Fáil seems interested in being in government, but is that because this is Micheál Martin’s last shot at being taoiseach?
Many of his backbenchers seem deeply ambivalent about the prospect.
Are we a nation of hurlers on the ditch? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There does seem to be a bit of tension when the same people who are dismissive of the Greens’ idea of a national unity government because of the need for an opposition to hold the government to account are also similarly assertive that one of the small centre-left parties absolutely has to join a coalition with Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the mostly conservative Independents.
At first glance, this seems completely unnecessary.
Discounting left-wing Independents like Thomas Pringle and Catherine Connolly, and former Sinn Féin TDs Carol Nolan and Peadar Tóibín, the combined total of Independents willing to support a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition is between 13 and 16 – that is enough for a coalition of between 85 to 88 seats, more than enough for a governing majority.
However, I suspect that the argument of those who insist on the existence of a “national duty” for Labour, the Greens or the Social Democrats to join a conservative coalition relies not so much on the need to ensure the numbers for a long-running administration, but that there is apparently something to fear if at least one of the parties on the left can’t be made to discredit themselves by sacrificing their policies for a couple of cabinet seats.
If the response to this is that we need a government with a broad vision for the future, one that isn’t exclusive to those who voted for the conservative parties, it seems bizarre to exclude Sinn Féin, both the largest party of the left, and the most popular overall.
Of course, it would be likely that Sinn Féin would have the political leverage to demand from the two old parties far more concessions than the Greens could ever hope to get, but I’m hopeful such narrow-minded interests aren’t part of the motivation. – Yours, etc,