Wednesday 26 October 2016

Mr Martin may yet regret his decision to spurn road not taken

Published 08/04/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

In politics significant change often comes only after a journey to the other side of fear. One thinks of Unionists and Nationalists sharing power in the North. Yesterday Micheál Martin had an opportunity to take a historic step and form a government with his party's old foes. He opted instead for what is regarded as the timeworn path of Civil War tribal politics. As a result, after 41 days we are still no closer to forming a government.

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Although many people in the country see little between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - with the shadows of the Big Fellow and the Long Fellow no longer blocking the light - and even though many more couldn't care less, once a stable Government is put in place; none of this appears to matter.

Parish pump parochialism again takes precedence.

Personality politics and the petty interests of the party will triumph over what is best for the nation.

The concern is that what is more secure and comfortable for Fianna Fáil, will not be more secure for the country. And a Grand Coalition between the two parties in whom the greatest number of voters invested their trust is not to be.

Mr Martin's preference is for a minority government in the first instance led by himself; or, failing that, one which would be supported by Fianna Fáil. This represents a far less sturdy construction than the offer put forward by Mr Kenny and would likely be blown away by the first political squall.

The fact that we were forced to endure such a meandering and tortuous process before the two leaders even deigned to meet, only to be told that the actual discussion was concluded in a mere 15 minutes, is another insult to the voters and the integrity of politics.

Mr Martin told us that the "last 24 hours left a lot to be desired." It is a great pity he was discommoded. To have so rapidly dismissed the opportunity to change fundamentally the course of Irish politics and to put accusations of self-serving me-féinism to bed once and for all af ter one quarter of an hour was a grave error.

It has been said before that the difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician only thinks about the next election, while the statesman must think about the next generation. Mr Martin, by spurning "the road less taken", has left himself wide open to the charge seized upon by acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny of following "narrow interests."

It is profoundly depressing that even at such a time speaking on behalf of his party Fianna Fáil 's Barry Cowen could pronounce: "We cannot have a government for the sake of a government." Having waited two years and nine months for the well-fed cardinals in the Italian town of Viterbo to find a successor for Clement 1V, the townspeople were so incensed that they tore the roof off the building, and took away the food. Pope Gregory X was then promptly delivered in 1271.

Yesterday Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin became the first leader of a major political party to say no to the chance of becoming Taoiseach. Whether tearing the slates off Leinster House would accelerate the prospects of forming a government or not is a moot point. But there is no doubt that the electorate is hitting the roof after 41 days of hot air and no sign of white smoke. President Eisenhower said that the search for a scapegoat is the easiest form of hunting. We may be target-rich in finding scapegoats but the hunt for a Government is as desultory as ever.

It is a bad day for politics when our two biggest parties are still more at ease in sharing out the blame than even countenancing the prospect of sharing power.

Irish Independent

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