The 'new politics' is here - but can the politicans actually make it work?
Published 07/05/2016 | 02:30
We were always more likely to get a cuckoo clock than an expensive Swiss watch given the scarcity of available parts for the 32nd Dáil. How long it will tick or how reliable it will be is anyone's guess. Nobody was elected to the Dáil to be a bystander, bit player or a perpetual naysayer. But too many sat on their hands.
Over the past 70 days we have learned much about new and old politics. The fact that nine party leaders or groups were involved in the vote tells us something about the complexity of the task in hand.
And with nine Independents to manage - and with Fianna Fáil neither completely in nor completely out of government - it will take the dexterity of a flea circus ringmaster to maintain order.
That this honour falls to Taoiseach Enda Kenny is a testament to his durability. Survival is probably the most underestimated of all leadership talents, and Mr Kenny has taken it to a whole new level.
Considering he was deemed a dead man walking after the election shows the scale of his achievement.
While many of the blunders in the build-up to the election can be laid at his door, his ability to recognise his failings and regroup has been impressive.
Decoding the message sent by the voters and translating so many diverse signals has been a tall order. Giving it coherent political expression proved almost impossible.
Mr Kenny at least was first to articulate the importance of elevating the interests of the country above those of any group or party.
The bona fides of Fianna Fáil will be tested in coming months. Having spurned the offer to be a part of Government they have opted instead to play the role of an unmoved mover.
The activist Naomi Klein noted how: "The truly powerful feed ideology to the masses like fast food while they dine on the most rarified delicacy of all: impunity."
But there is no impunity in public office, and any sabotage or deliberate destabilising of the Government for cheap opportunistic poll advantage by any individual or party will be punished.
Micheál Martin will have spoken for many when he railed against the audacity of Sinn Féin for sniping from the wings while refusing to move things forward. "Parties who agreed on nothing condemn us for not agreeing enough," he said. It has been said that you only need to scratch a cynic to find a disappointed idealist - and this truism might have been reflected in the regrettably high number of TDs who abstained from voting yesterday. The comfort and security of abstention will not serve democracy well.
The country faces formidable internal and external challenges. Secure and authoritative Government could not be more critical. Perhaps the hallmark of the 'new politics' is the fact that, out of 158 members, a Taoiseach can be elected with the support of just 59. Labour leader Joan Burton has dismissed the new government as a Coalition of convenience. She had the opportunity to be part of the process, but chose not to be. Carping is less than constructive in the circumstances. Obviously the days of "natural parties of government" and massive majorities are over. An era of consent and consultation has been forced on the Dáil by voters and it is incumbent on members to make the new paradigm work. Mr Kenny was not deemed by the Irish electorate to have delivered the first time around - yet he has been given that most rare thing in politics, a second chance. We must hope that he seizes it.