Thursday 27 October 2016

Independents do not have resources to fight another election

Published 25/04/2016 | 02:30

Presiding Officer Carmel McBride and Gda Sgt Paul McGee carry a ballot box on Inishbofin during the election Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Presiding Officer Carmel McBride and Gda Sgt Paul McGee carry a ballot box on Inishbofin during the election Photo: Niall Carson/PA

I have seen almost endless letters on this page since the last election, most of them a variation on the theme of 'stop wasting time and form a government or else call a new election'.

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It seems to have especially upset many of your correspondents that the people of Ireland elected so many Independents, as they lay some of the blame for the current impasse on this fact.

Presumably, your correspondents voted for one of the main parties rather than Independents, or they wouldn't have as much to complain about.

I would therefore like to remind them that whether they like it or not, the widely varied results of the last election reflect precisely the expressed will of the electorate; not some hidden assumption of support for specifically either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil to form a government. Equally significantly, those calling for a new general election should realise first that such a call would be very bad for democracy here. The large number of Independents were elected because voters wished to be represented by them instead of the traditional two-party system that dominates political life.

This year proved to be a real turning point. These Independents do not have the financial resources of the larger parties and most likely have spent whatever they have to get elected in February. In the normal course of events, they would have five years to build resources to fight the next round: this will not be the case should an election be called within the next few weeks or months. The main parties and their supporters must be aware of this and how it would be to their advantage.

If the next election provides a more stable, 'traditional' result, it won't necessarily be because that's the wish of any 'chastened' electorate but because Independents will not be able to put themselves forward in such large numbers. It will, in short, be a return to 'business as usual' and a bad day for democracy.

Nick Folley, Carrigaline, Co Cork

Vote the Troika back in

With a new election looming and the standard of candidates on offer, would it be possible to have the Troika put on the ballot papers? I, for one, would vote for them.

Aidan Hampson, Artane, Dublin

FG grassroots deserve better

Any hope of a stable government has been lost with the recent rejection by the Labour Party leadership of a minority rainbow government and the outright refusal of Fianna Fáil to contemplate a grand coalition with Fine Gael.

Those who advocate in favour of the Danish model of minority governance, like the leader of Fianna Fáil, are merely making a virtue out of their political necessity - the high priests of Ballymagash now want to lead us to the promised land of Borgen.

Notwithstanding the absurd positions of their party rivals, the Fine Gael leadership remain ever willing to stand in the 'bearna baol' and attempt to cobble together a single page understanding with Fianna Fáil and a Programme for Government with whatever combination of Independents will sign up for a minimum of support for three Budgets.

It is hard to see how the electorate will ever thank Fine Gael for forming a weak government with such unlikely partners. Even the compromises mooted for Irish Water should be a bridge too far for the canvassers and public representatives who endured the often obnoxious behaviour of some of those most fervently opposed to water charges.

As is par for this course, the absolute loyalty of Fine Gael's grassroots and local authority representatives is assumed by a party leadership who stand collectively responsible for the devastating defeats suffered during the local and general elections.

Knowing that they should be exposed to the wrath of the membership if the party returns to opposition, they are like the desperate man at a ballroom who asks every single woman for a dance before the night is over as he cannot face leaving alone.

This process of government-formation is fast becoming the political equivalent of death by a thousand cuts for Fine Gael. The party's grassroots deserve much better. Another general election would be difficult but not dishonourable but a party establishment that puts itself first deserves to be disestablished at the earliest possible opportunity.

PJ O'Meara, Co Tipperary

Addressing suicide crisis

In the Irish Independent on Wednesday, March 26, 2016, I suggested that the next government needs to set up a ministry which includes the word 'suicide' in the title. This week, Fr Paddy Byrne from Portlaoise attended another funeral for a life that ended tragically, the seventh or eighth in recent days.

We have a suicide crisis in Ireland, with an estimated figure of 459 suicide deaths for 2014. It needs our immediate attention. As a society, we need to accept there is a real problem here that won't go away by hoping it will be better tomorrow. In 2008, when we had a financial crisis, we recognised it for what it was and took the appropriate action.

The Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parties are currently discussing water, rural Ireland, homelessness and other important areas. Please include suicide in your discussions. Your children will thank you.

Damien Carroll, Kingswood, Dublin 24

Am I incapable of voting?

Last year, I graduated from the University of Limerick and this is the first time I have questioned whether I went to the right university or not. Is there something I am lacking as a graduate of UL that makes the graduates of TCD and the NUI-affiliated colleges more capable of voting in the Seanad university panel than I am?

What puts these graduates, who have the right to vote on the university panel, on a platform above the others?

What logic, reason or rhyme was used to make the division - to draw the line in the sand and leave it there? In 1979, the Irish people voted in a referendum to extend the graduate voting system to more colleges. They voted in favour by just over 92pc. Now, 37 years later, all I can do is talk about the Seanad election.

The university panels are a symbol of what is wrong with our political system. While they might elect Senators that are thought-provoking, passionate and excellent legislators - by the very nature of the panel that they are elected to, they promote elitism and academic snobbery.

I look forward to the next Seanad election, where once again I won't have a vote; and once again nobody will be able to tell me why.

Marian O'Donnell, Cahir, Co Tipperary

Irish Independent

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