| 11°C Dublin

Jim O'Brien: The time for political navel-gazing is over: we need a new government and we need it fast


Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Maxwells

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Maxwells

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Maxwells

The greatest insult to be hurled at politicians is to tell them they are all the same. They will protest virulently and point to their 'unique policy positions and solid track record across a range of issues'.

The more they protest about their differences, the more they all appear to be the same.

The carry-on since the election has been disgraceful, with some of the parties openly declaring that they are choosing to act in the interest of the long-term health and viability of their party rather than act in the interests of the country.

If we ever needed a strong and stable government, it is now. The world is in the grip of Covid-19, an epidemic that is threatening to become a pandemic, which could fundamentally alter the global social and economic order.

The threat of a hard Brexit is more likely that it ever was; meanwhile an unending alphabet of storm and flood is delivering warning after warning that we must do something about climate change.

At an EU level there is trouble on a few fronts. The simmering immigrant crisis is about to explode as Turkey seeks to strong-arm the EU into supporting its efforts against Assad and Putin in Syria.

The entire EU budget, not to mention the CAP, is being re-aligned in the wake of the UK departure, in the face of climate change and in the face of these migration challenges. These latter are only set to deepen as climate change and wars ravage the Middle East and Africa.

On the doorsteps in the course of the recent election the politicians were made clearly aware of the urgent domestic concerns people have in relation to health, housing, income inequality and regional disparity. They have heard it straight from us.

So, are they going to represent and lead? Are they going to do the things they were elected to do, or are they going to grandstand, scheme, dither and sulk?

Since the election one of the most baffling refrains one hears again and again from some politicians is that they were elected to go into opposition to undertake a period of reflection. I don't know any voter who took the trouble to go to a polling station on a wild and wet day in early February to give strong preferences to candidates who wanted to spend the next five years navel-gazing.

This is a position that appears to have been adopted in particular by Fine Gael and Labour, who have declared that they will not be involved in government formation but will sit on the opposition benches in order to rebuild their parties.

Those politicians and those parties must be reminded that they were not elected to sulk and they were not elected to lick their party wounds. They were elected to represent, to lead and to govern.

Likewise Fianna Fáil, like an old Labrador who bounded into the sea unaware of how deep the water was, is now paddling furiously in an attempt to find its footing in unfamiliar surroundings. Its only focus is on survival and a return to the glory days when everyone tickled its belly.

While Sinn Fein is offering to talk to all and sundry, one has the sneaking suspicion the party is gagging for another election.

A cursory look at some of the main players gives the distinct impression that the national interest is not very high on any of the agendas. Tribal and party considerations are dictating the shape, the pace, the content and the outcome of all that is going on.

Another refrain one hears when it comes to government formation is, "the numbers aren't there".

Yet there were 159 TDs elected about a month ago, with the Ceann Comhairle retaining his seat ex-officio. This is the number of deputies required by the constitution to represent the current population. It is expected that, having put themselves before the population in groups or singly, those elected will accept the will of the people, get over themselves and do what they were chosen to do.

This is no time for navel gazing, throwing strops or refusing to play. Those elected need to examine their consciences and ask themselves what is their real motivation for behaving in the way they are at the moment.

Are they doing it for the good of their party or for the good of the country? If they are doing it for the former then we, the electorate, have chosen badly, we have given ourselves representation of the worst kind.

The crises are many, the numbers are there, get on with it.

Indo Farming