Wednesday 28 September 2016

Two months too long without a government

Published 26/04/2016 | 02:30

The threat of a second general election lingers heavily
The threat of a second general election lingers heavily

Two months ago today, the country went to the polls in the 2016 General Election. The voters' involvement ended on that day, when we exercised our democratic franchise.

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From there, it was over to the politicians to elect a government based upon the outcome.

And that's where the trouble started. The election did not throw up a decisive result allowing the straight-forward election of a Taoiseach by the Dáil.

Nonetheless, the 158 TDs were left with the privilege and obligation of representing the people who put them in this position of responsibility.

The batch of TDs can be easily divided into two distinct groups - neither of whom are emerging with much credit.

The first group are the fence-sitters, who made it clear from the off that they had no interest in actually providing a government. So the opposition benches are graced by Sinn Féin, the AAA-People Before Profit, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, Independents for Change and some other Independents.

The second group are the ditherers, who have tried and failed miserably to put a government together by spending two months engaging in talks about talks. This group comprises Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Independents.

Meanwhile, the public stands aghast and amazed that water charges are somehow the biggest issue facing the country. Really? Not the state of the health service? Not the housing crisis and homelessness? Not the fragile condition of the recovering economy? Not the creation of jobs?

The threat of a second general election lingers heavily. The chances of it throwing up a decisive result are virtually non-existent. Indeed, the only guarantee for candidates appearing on doorsteps is the further ire of the voters.

Irish women let down by maternity hospital row

The stalled relocation of the National Maternity Hospital on the St Vincent's University Hospital Group campus in south Dublin represents a staggering setback for women and infants.

Co-location of maternity services adjacent to an acute adult hospital produces the best clinical outcomes for women and babies: it is the reason why the Government has endorsed co-location in its recent National Maternity Strategy.

St Vincent's is the optimal site for the co-location of the National Maternity Hospital, as the hospitals already share consultants and other clinical staff, not to mention the costs that would be reduced in future as services ranging from catering to pathology are shared between the two entities.

Some €150m has been set aside by the Government to build the new maternity hospital, but the much-needed project has stalled over a dispute between the two hospital entities about governance and control.

The Government endorses the current Mastership system under which all three maternity hospitals in the capital operate. However, St Vincent's wants to bring the National Maternity Hospital under its governance structures.

Whatever the commercial, clinical or ethical issues at stake, the overriding concern must always be the clinical outcomes for women and children in a country whose history is blighted by maternity scandals.

The failure to progress this much-needed merger would represent another dark stain on Ireland's record on women.

Irish Independent

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