Sunday 25 February 2018

Kevin Doyle: After the earthquake, a changed Dáil is on view

Protesters outside Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Protesters outside Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Outside Leinster House there was still a relatively small bunch of people calling for Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil to be put "out, out, out".

It was a strange spectacle just two weeks after a seismic election where the left rose, new independent voices emerged and the mainstream parties found themselves in a twilight zone.

The people have spoken - although their statement was a touch blurry. They voted Fine Gael and Labour out, but didn't really vote anybody in to replace them. Fianna Fáil says it has no mandate to work with Enda Kenny, and Fine Gael is in a complete spin about what to do.

But there was some value in yesterday's proceedings because we, as a nation, got to see what we voted for.

We have for a long time been warned of the "dolly mixture of Independents", the "loony left" and those small parties that sit so far up on the moral high-ground they can't cut it at the coalface. Those derogatory descriptions are redundant now in Irish politics, because a new Dáil has dawned and its make-up is like nothing we have seen before.

Nobody from Fine Gael -apart from Enda Kenny and the two Dublin TDs Noel Rock and Catherine Byrne, who nominated for Taoiseach - spoke during the afternoon session when the floor was opened for statements.

There was an element of them having nothing positive to say, so there was no point in saying anything.

The Fianna Fáil deputies were practically bouncing around Leinster House, playing mind games with the media over their intentions for the coming weeks. Micheál Martin said there was no panic at all. Everyone else disagreed.

The Labour Party backed the re-election of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach but its leader Joan Burton said the seven votes "bookends" their relationship.

Sinn Féin didn't even pretend it wants to be in government - while at the same time it pronounced the death of Fine Gael.

The AAA-PBP put forward Richard Boyd Barrett for Taoiseach but Bríd Smith summed it up when she said the politicians were "in a theatre" and the "radical left has as much of a right to be players as anyone else". In other words they were looking for airtime.

Shane Ross of the Independent Alliance announced that "something revolutionary that has happened must be recognised".

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told a story about people getting into bed together and the Social Democrats made no contribution at all.

Everybody spoke of the need for government - but nobody offered up a way of forming one.

We heard there is an "onus" on the left-wing parties to work together.

We also heard that there is an "onus" on the big two parties to work together.

There was so much peer pressure wafting around the Dáil chamber that the new Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, asked all sides to try "not to provoke or to be provoked".

The recent election has been described as an earthquake, but for all the smiling faces posing for pictures outside Leinster House yesterday and the diminished numbers of protesters outside the gates, it was clear that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It might not exactly be the outcome that people wanted - but it's the one that we voted for.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News