Saturday 22 October 2016

Nation's anxiety must be eased

Published 08/05/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny signing the 32nd Dail into office alongside President Michael D Higgins Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Taoiseach Enda Kenny signing the 32nd Dail into office alongside President Michael D Higgins Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The manner of its election, which was in doubt until the final moments, bodes ill for the long-term future of the new Government comprising a chastened Fine Gael party and an array of Independent TDs who individually may come highly regarded in their constituencies but who collectively could hardly be said to be fully representative of the collective will and ingenuity of the country.

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That said, the new Government should be welcomed and wished well in its endeavours, and bid a fair wind with which to get there. The time and effort put into the process of government formation by those who have participated must be duly acknowledged, even if a prevailing sense of impermanence lies uneasily in the firmament.

Fianna Fail will now facilitate the new administration on votes of financial matters and confidence, but will also seek to carve out a separate identity as the lead party of opposition, to have either the best or worst of both worlds, depending on perspective. There is undoubtedly an element of opportunism to Fianna Fail's positioning of itself, the result of which is to present the country with what has been referred to as "new politics" to be administered in the form of consensus minority government. It would not do to approach this new dispensation with too cynical a heart, other than to say that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

Also in opposition, Sinn Fein and the far-left parties and other Independent TDs and smaller parties can be expected to maintain a general hubbub and commotion which, no doubt, they believe properly reflects the mandate they have received, but which, in truth, only serves to foster the profound sense of disillusionment about modern political life which saw many voters turn to them in the first place.

The further truth is that, to quote Charles Dickens, this is the best of times and the worst of times. Such contradictions and confusions continue to create a sense of uncertainty and anxiety which pervades almost every level of society. During the last few years, the word "anxiety" has escaped the bounds of psychology and leaped into the larger social, economic and political arena. The consequences have been profound.

Never before has there been such a confluence of events, domestic and international, from rising personal and government debt to rapid technological change, from extreme geopolitical tensions to volatile energy prices, to have heightened tensions and left uneasy electorates everywhere throughout the western world, many of which have turned to extremes from middle-ground alternatives.

The electorate here did not lunge to such an extreme, but still returned to Dail Eireann a mixed assembly of parties and TDs which has made difficult the business of government formation, but perhaps not so difficult as to merit 70 days in the making.

Now that it is done, however, it is time to get on with the business at hand. A word to the wise: if the new Government is to achieve anything, and there is much to be achieved, then it is to be hoped that it can help to dispel at least some of those all-pervasive anxieties, spoken and unspoken, which are crippling individual lives, families and neighbourhoods the length and breadth of the country.

Sunday Independent

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