The need for stability


NO GENERAL election in the State’s history has been held in more adverse economic conditions. No one casting a vote in 2007 could have imagined the economic transformation that would follow. In less than four years, a spectacular economic boom – or credit-fuelled property bubble – that seemed like a dream to some became a living nightmare for many following the implosion of the banks. The result was jobs lost, wealth destroyed, living standards reduced and the hopes and prospects of a generation of young people blighted.

The outgoing minority Fianna Fáil Government has struggled to contain this crisis, its failure signalled, indeed symbolised, by the loss of our economic sovereignty.

These circumstances propel us into a situation where we need to elect a stable government tomorrow. It must have a sense of realism about the extent of our financial problems. We must have the courage also to support parties or individuals who won’t be afraid to make the hard decisions.

The earlier that we tackle our financial problems, the sooner we will come through this situation which is unprecedented in our history. We need to do all that we can to regain our sovereignty as a State before the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1916.

Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, has said that there will be painful decisions to be made. Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party, accepts in his public utterances of late that he will not be Taoiseach. He is seeking to influence the balance of power and direction of the next government.

Fianna Fáil has found itself in a truly unprecedented position in this campaign with an outgoing Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who played no role and a new leader, Micheál Martin, who has had some success in fostering the illusion that now is now; he had no role in their 14-year past. What is more unprecedented is that the party is accepting that it will be in opposition and campaigning to be the biggest opposition party.

The new government, which will be elected by the Dáil on March 9th, will inherit a bleak legacy from its predecessor: a mountain of debt and some intractable economic difficulties. Whether that be a single party Fine Gael government, supported by some like-minded Independents or, as seems more likely, a Fine Gael-Labour coalition, it will have no time to enjoy the traditional honeymoon period allowed to ministers to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities.

This general election provides an opportunity for public reassessment and for political renewal. Voters will be familiar by now with what parties aim to achieve in government, if sceptical about some of the promises made. The new government will very quickly recognise the truth of the American adage about campaigning in poetry but governing in prose.

Voters are exhausted by the long campaign. Fianna Fáil has been reduced from political giant to political pygmy and Fine Gael and Labour are centre stage. But, the people have not yet spoken.