The options for forming a government


Sir, – Mary Lou McDonald is conflating a desire for change with a desire for a Sinn Féin-led government. She has not been able to put together sufficient seats to lead such an administration and instead, mindful of her populist base, is seeking to demonise both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for not being prepared to facilitate her path to power. Both of these parties made pre-election commitments to the electorate that they would not enter into government with Sinn Féin and are entirely within their rights to maintain this position post-election, particularly so in light of the significant differences in both their respective political DNA and manifestos with those of Sinn Féin. That these policy differences are insurmountable is self-evident and efforts to shoehorn them into a shared space have little or no chance of working beyond any honeymoon period.

Politicians are nothing if not pragmatic. The need for social change in Ireland in the key touchpoints of health, housing and childcare is obvious. A grand coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, supported by the Greens or others, is perfectly capable of delivering such change, not least because a failure to do so would hand a certain landslide majority victory to Sinn Féin in the next election. The policies needed to deliver this change are far more likely to be delivered within such a grand coalition, in a measured, accelerated and sustainable fashion, without damaging the hard-won recovery from the brink of national bankruptcy. The same cannot be said of a Sinn Féin-led approach which is not grounded in economic reality. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Foresight is probably the most essential attribute of a potential leader. Clearly, whoever leads any organisation, or country, needs to be able to envisage reasonably likely scenarios, and to develop options and contingencies to deal with them.

Given that the outcome of the recent election was just as had been forecast, it seems bizarre that our putative leaders were unprepared for it. It is quite incomprehensible, however, that they had volunteered commitments during the campaign which mean that any resolution now will entail breaking their promises, through the very act of forming a government. Being so unprepared for such an anticipated outcome would suggest unsuitability for most serious jobs. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Before forming a government, let us first enjoy the lull in hostilities! No government means the perpetually disgruntled have no target to aim at. So sit back and enjoy the peace, while it lasts. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – By now the nonsense that Sinn Féin, with less than 25 per cent of the seats, “won” the election should have dissipated. However, the idea that it is committed to radical change in the areas of housing and health is believed by many.

It’s always a good idea to judge political parties by what they do rather than what they say. 2016 was the last full year Sinn Féin was in government in the North before the Executive collapsed. At March 31st, 2016, there were 37,596 people on the social housing waiting lists, with 22,645 deemed to be in what is called “housing stress”.

This unacceptable number happened under Sinn Féin’s watch.

Also at the end of March 2016, there were a staggering 214,953 people waiting for a first outpatient appointment.

Not only did this happen under Sinn Féin’s watch, its deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill, was minister for health at the time. What did Ms O’Neill do in response? She published, in February 2016, a 10-year plan for the health services in the North. No doubt a glossy brochure was a great comfort to the sick people of Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin in government has failed to address the issues of health and housing that it highlighted so persistently during the election campaign. Why anyone would believe they will do better “down South” is a mystery. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – It seems that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are about to give us their interpretation of what “change” means. A coalition of the centre-right parties – which have held power since the foundation of the State – with the Greens reprising their role as “mudguard” to make up the numbers. To sweeten the sell they will commit to tackling the social ills (they created) with a programme for government informed by the manifestos of the centre-left. Is this really credible? Or is it just a case of what Cicero cautioned about? To paraphrase, there is no proposition, no matter how cockamamy, that a few politicians in full pursuit of self-interest cannot render plausible. – Yours, etc,




A chara, – Brand me cynical if you will but, when it comes to government formation, the real deadline will be March 17th and who will be travelling to the White House as taoiseach on St Patrick’s Day. – Is mise,