Tuesday 24 October 2017

Analysis: While Fine Gael fiddles, the crises are stacking up

Micheál Martin has complained that the new rent controls are based on incomplete data but nobody has followed it up Picture: Arthur Carron
Micheál Martin has complained that the new rent controls are based on incomplete data but nobody has followed it up Picture: Arthur Carron
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

There has been plenty of talk about the need for unity in Fine Gael over the past week. It's a natural reaction in a time of crisis to come together and stand firm against the threat.

And in the end Enda Kenny's beleaguered troops decided to put the party first rather than risk a divisive heave. Crisis averted for now.

But what about the real crises facing Irish society? Why can't politicians band together to tackle the hospital waiting lists, get homes built and remove the cloud of industrial strife?

The past week has seen Leinster House convulsed by internal Fine Gael fiddling.

Opposition parties have rightly hit out at the Government's main party's obsession with getting its own house in order.

Micheál Martin complained on Tuesday that the recently introduced rent controls were based on incomplete data but nobody had followed it up "because everybody was interested in the Simon-Leo show".

Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams argued ministers were bringing chaos to the country and the Fine Gael party.

"They obsess on who will lead Fine Gael and, by grace of Fianna Fáil, who will lead the Government and when," he said. But at the same time TDs were openly laughing at the disharmony in Fine Gael ranks.

The hype around Mr Kenny's address to the parliamentary party infected all sides of the House even if the Opposition felt the need to fake outrage at the circus.

We in the media got very excited too at the prospect of a leadership battle.

Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' even got in on the act, suggesting the public was engaged.

So they should be. Despite what the people who moan about everything say, it actually matters. The next Taoiseach is being chosen and that's big news.

Read More: Varadkar and Coveney in 'covert' campaigns to spell out their visions

However, the race is now on ice for a few weeks and the two frontrunners could use that time to come up with answers to bigger questions.

How are they going to get the 381 people who spent yesterday on hospital trolleys a better service?

Will they force Transport Minister Shane Ross to sort out the looming bus strike?

Is it really tenable for the Garda Commissioner to remain in her position while facing accusations so serious the Government felt compelled to set up a tribunal of inquiry?

Does it really make sense to build a children's hospital at the St James's site and does it really need to be the most expensive in the world?

What more can be done to ensure people aren't paying €10 a night to sleep in internet cafés?

And do we play nice, tough or fast in the Brexit negotiations?

At the launch of a new bill aimed at keeping people in their homes yesterday, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran broke into an impromptu monologue that's hard to argue with.

"In recent months and particularly in recent days in the Dáil it's all about scoring points. If you talk about what went on in the Dáil all last week in relation to the Taoiseach, this is real work. This is what we were elected to do.

"This is delivering for the people who put us here. While the political parties want to score points, be it Fianna Fáil, be it Sinn Féin, be it the smaller groupings, this is what we need to concentrate on," he said.

It was a rare example of a bill that has a chance of getting cross-party support.

Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and whoever else runs for the Fine Gael leadership must reset 'new politics' and try to build some political unity if the Dáil is to achieve anything.

Irish Independent

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