Monday 24 June 2019

Let's end this nonsense of FF/SF coalition

Fianna Fail will not enter into a post-election coalition with Sinn Fein, no matter how often commentators predict it, writes Micheal Martin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Picture: Arthur Carron

Micheal Martin

When historians come to look back on the coverage of Irish politics in these times, they will be struck by how much space was given to the process of politics rather than focusing on the substance of the real issues facing people on a daily basis.

A dramatic example of this was seen in the months leading up to the General Election in 2016. The dominant topic was speculation about who would be in government. That's why there was such a gap between commentators' predictions and the actual result.

I said at the time that the debate on various scenarios was futile and more debate should be on what type of Ireland people wanted, and to vote for the party that they believed were in the best position to deliver change.

And yet it looks as if the same thing is happening again. The coverage on "coalitionology" is already crowding out serious debate on the many urgent issues facing our country.

The new pet obsession is the absurd idea that Fianna Fail would be willing to go into government with Sinn Fein - something which is being actively encouraged by the always insincere briefers around our media-obsessed Taoiseach.

A Fine Gael minister has even been sent out to concern-troll Fianna Fail members with the idea that their leader can't be believed.

Isn't it striking that they could find a minister in August to talk about what my party would do after the election but couldn't find one to talk about the CSO's shocking homelessness figures?

This has been followed by other commentators, including those whose primary topic in recent months has been their prediction of a so-far unseen dramatic new direction for our country under a changed leader.

The reason why Fine Gael would prioritise this piece of disinformation is, of course, the absence of any change of substance in the Government. The first and so far only priority has been 'strategic communication'.

As various reports have confirmed, there is now in Government Buildings an absolute focus on positioning for an election. This is why the Taoiseach's Department now has, for the first time, a marketing expert in place.

They have decided that talking about what Fianna Fail might do is a good distraction from the reality of what's happening in different policy areas.

Let's put this Sinn Fein coalition nonsense to bed so more time can be spent discussing solutions to the rising emergencies in housing, homelessness, health services and Brexit planning. There is still a two-tiered recovery, which is still being ignored by government.

Fianna Fail's established policy on Sinn Fein is that it is unfit for government in Dublin and we will oppose any and all efforts by them to get into government.

And for those who say "ah sure ,why should we believe you?" the answer is equally clear - Fianna Fail is the only party in the current Dail which was true to its pre-election statements on government formation.

While others changed their position in a most cynical way, we kept to a policy which we had been told in hundreds of interviews and columns wouldn't be honoured.

We differ with Sinn Fein profoundly on many issues but particularly on economic and business policies.

And as far as more fundamental matters go, it does not adhere to many of the most basic principles of democratic republicanism which are a prerequisite to any party being in government.

I have compared its behaviour in the past to that of a cult and I see no reason to change this assessment.

In the 20 years since the last ceasefires, Sinn Fein has a 100pc record in putting the interests of the Provisionals' movement ahead of the interests of the State.

In relation to Europe, Sinn Fein is our most consistently anti-EU party, which has campaigned against every single treaty, especially those which have been central to economic growth here.

When under pressure about crimes committed, Sinn Fein calls for people to "bring what they know to the authorities" - but no one ever comes forward.

People remain in Sinn Fein in spite of knowing the identities of people who committed repugnant crimes well after the Good Friday Agreement.

We had the grotesque reality of kangaroo courts being used to deal with child sex abuse cases - something which Sinn Fein leaders defended as they believed it was caused by distrust of the State.

So, quite frankly, we don't think government is a place for a party which puts loyalty to its own movement first, which actively justifies appalling crimes committed and which has policies which could permanently destroy much of the economy and marginalise Ireland internationally.

Sinn Fein's behaviour in Belfast shows that its only skill is in bringing down governments, not in using them to work on behalf of all people.

The Northern Executive is not the government of a sovereign republic and there are direct limits on what any one party or the Executive and Assembly can do. A striking one is that access to security information is limited.

These limits do not and cannot apply to a government nominated by the Oireachtas.

The next time another Provisional IRA crisis emerges, such as those concerning sex abuse, punishment beatings or the murder of an innocent man sitting in a pub, how can the unreformed Sinn Fein be given a role in the response of our forces of law and order?

We've seen in recent years, when either Dublin or London steps back from the North, or takes sides on the part of one or more parties, things break down.

Sinn Fein has had opportunities for more than nine months now to return to government in Stormont and it has not done so, even though Ireland faces its biggest challenge ever with Brexit.

It even rejected the latest attempt by the DUP to get talks back on track without giving it any consideration.

Sinn Fein has stood back while the working people in Northern Ireland are being deprived of public services because of the lack of any ministers being in place.

It has also chosen not to participate in Westminster despite having seven members elected. They have decided to wash their hands of challenging a potential hard Brexit by the Tories. This is in stark contrast to the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales.

So for once and all, let's put to bed this recent nonsense about a post-election coalition with Sinn Fein. Instead Fianna Fail is going to continue to insist that the focus needs to be on what government does to serve the people.

We are committed to bringing up constructive proposals and to holding this government to account. There needs to be less attention paid to starring in government and more attention paid to running a government.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is a TD for Cork South-Central

Sunday Independent

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

Don't Miss