The search for a government
Sir, – There appears to be a narrative gaining traction that somehow a vote for Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil is less valuable than a vote for Sinn Féin. It would appear to me that with a combined total of 73 seats, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are wholly entitled within the parameters of our parliamentary democracy to attempt government formation together. To coin a phrase, “They haven’t gone away you know.” – Yours , etc,
Sir, – Kathy Sheridan’s opinion piece “Neighbours misunderstand our triumph for democracy” (Opinion & Analysis, February 12th) claims that outside observers have been mistaken in their interpretation of the Sinn Féin surge, and she makes a number of fair points about the tendency of the foreign media to underestimate the role of bread-and-butter issues.
But a narrative that attributes all of the party’s success to its appeal on these issues and treats them as purely domestic is also open to question, as is the idea that the party’s own actions explain its rise, such as the ending of the political deadlock in Northern Ireland.
Yes, the restoration of devolution no doubt helped the party, but that was more down to the shift in the stance of the DUP, following its loss of influence in Westminster, than to any dramatic change in the actions or attitudes of republicans.
The nationalist aspect of the vote, whether seen as positive or negative, cannot be ignored. This is in line with trends elsewhere, however one labels this phenomenon, and even if, in the Irish case, it is left-leaning rather than right-leaning. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I strongly disagree with Kathy Sheridan’s analysis that the Irish electorate has delivered a glorious triumph for Irish democracy. First, she wrongly implies that populism only applies to the far-right. Of course there is far-left populism, and Sinn Féin is surely an example of that.
Promising unsustainable and simple solutions to complex problems while presenting itself as a shift away from “the establishment” and aligned with “the people” – Sinn Féin did all this. The content of what it said might be the opposite of the likes of Brexit supporters and Donald Trump, but the approach is the same.
Second, should we be proud of our electoral system causing such extreme political fragmentation that government formation now looks almost impossible? In an ironic twist, the UK now has one of the most stable governments in Europe, while Ireland will now descend into months of horse-trading behind the scenes.
Your columnist claims that the electorate made a “meaningful contribution”, all possible thanks to the single transferable vote. But surely that meaning is lost when the meat of what voters voted for is traded away by the parties, behind closed doors, and away from scrutiny. Boris Johnson has no such excuses when he fails to deliver on his programme for government.
“First past the post” is deeply problematic for many reasons, but it does have an ability to deliver stable governments. Given the sheer volume of serious challenges facing Ireland, perhaps the return of a stable government capable of truly decisive action is what Ireland needed, not a strange notion that the electorate got to have its say, and the options available weren’t too binary. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – And so it begins: the political posturing and shadow boxing! Labour is rushing to the Opposition benches as their leader resigns; Leo Varadkar is saying that he is destined to be the leader of the Opposition, if Fine Gael will have him; and sources in Fianna Fáil are saying that they are happy for Mary Lou McDonald to assume the office of taoiseach but without the power to pass budgets or legislation. “Let her knock herself out” seems to be their refrain.
They still don’t get it! If the people feel that Sinn Féin polices are being thwarted for pig-iron’s sake, they will not stand for it, and the only ones who will be getting knocked out are those politicians who do not respect their mandate at the next general election, which would surely come sooner rather than later! Sinn Féin would then return with a thumping majority, while others would be dispatched to a political waste ground. The people have demanded change and those wishes must be and will be respected come what may! – Is mise,
Sir, – The obvious response to last weekend’s election is that the “seismic change” bandied about so much in Irish politics by the commentariat, yourselves included, is that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil must coalesce to form a sustainable, viable, trustworthy administration (perhaps along with the Green Party to get the numbers in the Dáil).
Appealing to common sense, let’s leave egos, personal ambitions and personalities outside the negotiating room. The national interest is the all-consuming objective here.
I believe this is what the electorate demanded last weekend. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Frank Brady (Letters, February 12th) notes that Sinn Féin’s electoral performance is akin to that of Gaelic football teams overseen by defensive minded managers. I offer an alternate sporting view. Imagine Leitrim with 13 players coming within a point of Dublin in Croke Park! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Let Sinn Féin beware. Silver linings have clouds. – Yours, etc,