Monday 24 October 2016

Willie O'Dea: Coalition with Kenny would spell the end for Fianna Fail

Out of touch for not wanting to help re-elect Enda - I don't think so, writes Willie O'Dea

Willie O'Dea

Published 16/08/2015 | 02:30

WAR OF WORDS: Michael McGrath slated Willie O’Dea for not wanting to share power in next election with Fine Gael
WAR OF WORDS: Michael McGrath slated Willie O’Dea for not wanting to share power in next election with Fine Gael

We all have our faults, myself included. I thought I was aware of most of mine until this week when my parliamentary colleague Michael McGrath informed me that I have two more: being arrogant and out of touch.

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Why? Because I will not contemplate the idea of going into government as Fine Gael's junior partner.

When the election comes around, Fine Gael candidates will have the burden of going to the doors saying: "Vote for me and I'll make Enda Kenny Taoiseach for another five more years."

It is almost enough to make you feel sorry for them.

Only 'almost' though; as Enda is a problem of their own making. It is just five years since Fine Gael's TDs and senators came within a whisker of dumping him. Not only are the weaknesses and failings that brought them to that point still there, they are more evident.

Look at the intensity with which he refuses to debate. See how he falters and stumbles when answering for the policies of his own government - this is the man who recently told the Greek people that he had not increased VAT, despite the fact that Fine Gael-Labour increased VAT to 23pc soon after it came to power.

This is also the man of whom Leo Varadkar said on RTE's Prime Time in 2010: "The people are saying to us they don't have confidence in Enda Kenny."

Many of the people I represent are hurting thanks to the right-wing policies of Kenny's government. They want rid of him, so I find it mind boggling why anyone in Fianna Fail would think it wise for Fianna Fail candidates to go to the doors offering to prop him up for five more years of this?

There is nothing arrogant or out of touch about clearly rejecting the option of putting a bad Taoiseach back in office for five more years.

I have not the slightest doubt that going into coalition with Fine Gael as the junior partner would herald the end of Fianna Fail.

This is nothing to do with civil war politics or with issues of history - this is all to do with the political realities of both today and tomorrow.

This is about thinking in the long term - not the short one.

The creation of a Fine Gael-led coalition with Fianna Fail as the junior partner means the end of Fianna Fail, as it then means the only alternative alliance is a hard-left-wing one.

That would likely leave us with a decade or more of uncertainty with alternating left/right governments, just as the UK had in the 60s/70s. Each undoing the actions of its predecessor in a pointless tit-for-tat ideological spiral, to stagnation.

The recent speculation about Fianna Fail and coalition is not merely the standard silly-season stuff, there is a political agenda underpinning it - an agenda which, worryingly, is equally shared by Fine Gael and Sinn Fein.

Both parties want to foster the illusion that they are the only two alternatives available.

They want to pretend that Ireland has become some binary system with two equally repellent choices.

Such a notion serves the interests of both parties - it offers each a political carve up where they maintain their mutually assured existence.

Never mind the fact that there is absolutely no basis to their nonsense. The polls over the past 18 months - coupled with the results of the last local elections - show this, yet the spin doctors from both FG and SF persist.

The simple reality is that there are now three core political blocs in this country - Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein - all within a couple of percentage points of each other.

Behind these three blocs you have the Independents, who by their own definition cannot be called a bloc, followed by a declining Labour Party, plus a range of new and old political parties on the left and right getting two or three per cent a piece.

As the election approaches, those balances will change as voters look to find clear and unambiguous alternatives.

The public will have major choices to make and first of these will be whether or not to return the government that has cut supports to the most vulnerable, while creating an Irish Water behemoth that costs more to run than it raises.

How can you credibly make that choice if you believe the only alternative to the current failing government is one headed by Gerry Adams and staffed by a rag tag of left-wing leftovers?

This is the false choice that Enda Kenny is pushing in order to save his own electoral skin.

But it is the wrong one (and it won't have my help in pushing it).

Sunday Independent

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