Tuesday 20 February 2018

Editorial: Coalition must reinvent itself

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny

WE did not quite say 'Go in the name of God, go'. But an electorate who decided that yesterday would be 'Independents Day' has come close enough . . . and they are definitely saying it to Mr Gilmore who today resides in a similar lonely place to Michael Noonan in 2002. A similar response to Mr Noonan, who resigned by supper on that appalling day, would be appropriate for a leader steering Labour to a Green Party-style meltdown. Lest we forget, however, the loss of support of a quarter of the electorate represents a calamitous judgement by the public on both coalition parties for this is a fall in support that exceeds that suffered by Brian Cowen's Fianna Fail.

At a minimum, this result represents an attempt by the electorate to place a choke-chain on the gathering arrogance of a Coalition that appears to believe that it is in power by divine right rather than the consent of the electorate. It is also a warning that when it comes to the administration's fatal attraction to the less-than-la-Belle-Dame of austerity, we have reached the limits of toleration. Though our Government of apparent political slow learners has ignored similar 'wallops' in the Dail inquiries and Seanad referenda, the increasingly incipient general election and the starkness of yesterday's judgement may serve to sharpen their hearing. Others who might need to learn the virtues of the listening heart are Sinn Fein, who for all their premature celebrations today learnt the hard way that when it comes to securing the support of the electorate a Provo glass ceiling still exists.

Today's rout is likely to have immediate consequences within the political confines of Leinster House. Their comparative performances are likely to intensify the already growing tensions between the coalition partners. In particular, it is likely to increase the volume of those increasingly panicky calls on the Taoiseach for a speedy pre-summer recess reshuffle that Mr Kenny has, wisely enough, shown little enthusiasm for.

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