The task of forming a new government

Sir, – Eamon Ryan's piece advocating a "national unity government" displays breathtaking naivety, particularly from someone who spent four years in cabinet (Opinion & Analysis, March 28th). He says that such a government "would allow those already managing the crisis to continue in office".

This is incorrect in one case, since the Minister for Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty, who lost her Dáil seat at the recent election, would be removed from office mid-crisis by the formation of a new government, just as her department is grappling with the vast implications of the Covid-19 shutdown.

But beyond this, Mr Ryan seems to suggest that Fine Gael would retain the positions of taoiseach, tánaiste and the Departments of Finance and Health, despite being the third-largest party in such a government. This would be patently ridiculous, and there is simply no way that any of the parties – including Fine Gael – would agree to it. What is the point of forming a new government if the relevant ministers will not change?

The Green Party’s fascination with the concept of “national government” is not a new phenomenon.


In 2010, just four weeks before the EU/IMF bailout, the Green Party also proposed the formation of a national government, apparently needing a group-hug with other parties to ease their consciences about propping up an inept Fianna Fáil government which had brought the country to the brink of ruin. And now, it wants to do so again, this time so it can avoid having to choose between a coalition of the left, or a coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

The toy-politics of national government and the “D’Hondt method” may fascinate political scientists or a student debating society, but are not the stuff of a serious political party in the middle of a national crisis. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – I’m surprised that no letter writers on the current political impasse in government formation have to date stated the obvious – that the inability of any other party or combination of parties to secure a majority is entirely to the advantage of Fine Gael.

Leo Varadkar and all of the other pre-election Ministers will continue to occupy their previous roles in a caretaker capacity until some other grouping gains enough support to dislodge them – even Ministers like Shane Ross who failed to secure re-election.

It is thus not really in Fine Gael’s interest to put its shoulder to the wheel in progressing options that would see others take its places.

Every day that passes is an opportunity for those Ministers to use the platform of their positions to show the public that they are the best people for the job after all. The general consensus is that they have not done much wrong in the current crisis, and have done a lot very well indeed.

The onus is on Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Greens to deliver the change that electors voted for, or voters may well change their minds back again. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – I am a bit baffled that any Green voters, such as John Cotter (Letters, March 30th), would seriously consider a coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil a red line for their vote for the party in future.

Meeting our carbon emissions targets cannot be achieved through carbon tax alone, but would require a set of policies that allow people to live closer to where they work, and to be able to travel through means that aren’t as carbon intensive.

That requires substantive changes in housing and public transport policy. And Sinn Féin’s positions on those issues – alongside a preference for the increased taxation levels to make it possible – are a lot closer to the Green platform than those of either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail. It is also obvious that neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil have any serious respect for the party.

One of Fine Gaels TDs – who subsequently got re-elected – felt comfortable openly calling them “nutters”, while Fianna Fáil derided the Greens for turning a coalition formation discussion into a “policy seminar”, as though nailing down policy details was something that only “amateur hour” outfits did.

Finally, does Mr Cotter really recommend that the Greens try and grill the Old Two over house-heating efficiencies and cycling initiatives over the next few months, during the middle of a pandemic?

Otherwise, what exactly stops Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil from running roughshod over the priorities that those who voted for the Greens want in government? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 15.

Sir, – As a member of Fianna Fáil who supports the formation of a “Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael-plus” coalition, I agree with Caroline Sweetman (Letters, March 30th) that the current government is playing “a blinder” in the war against Covid-19. As such, Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe should retain their present positions in such a coalition – until the war is over.

Mícheál Martin has also distinguished himself in action in supporting his Fine Gael colleagues, putting the interest of the country well above party politics, and needs to continue with the work of forming a new government as soon as possible – one that will be needed to continue the war and rebuild the country. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.