Saturday 24 August 2019

Explainer: What does the latest political controversy mean for new politics?

John Downing

John Downing

A week of “political war” ended with the abrupt exit of Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald.

Does this mean “new politics” is dead – if it ever really lived?

John Downing answers four key questions:

  • New politics?  Remind us again?

A “hung Dáil” after the last election in February 2016 gave us a minority hybrid Coalition. It’s led by Fine Gael, includes diverse Independents, and needs the blessing of Fianna Fáil, from the opposition benches, via support votes – or abstention. That is called “new politics” as it replaces the old winner-takes-all Dáil model.

  • Eighteen months later has this worked? 

Not very well. Snail’s pace law-making led to accusations we have a “do-nothing-Dáil” talking for ever. But against some predictions two Budgets have been passed and job-creation has continued to slowly spread economic recovery.

  • What did this huge row over garda whistleblowers and the Justice Department’s malfunctions tell us about new politics?

On the minus side, we went from political stability to the brink of a snap general election in a matter of days. This complex but important row showed that any failure to reach pace-of-the-slowest agreement can topple the Government.

On the plus side, if we had a majority government, that row would have been shut down early via a Dáil vote backing Ms Fitzgerald. That could have meant important information being kept secret.

  • So, “new politics:”  Yes or No?

Yes, it can work and we’ll know more if this Irish Government, backed by key opposition parties, can deliver a good result on upcoming Brexit challenges. It is also challenged by a referendum on abortion due next summer.

But,  No, it’s not good enough unless things quicken up. We all have only one short life to live and we cannot wait for ever on a snail’s pace political system.

Online Editors

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