Friday 17 January 2020

Editorial: 'Politicians must prove to voters they can be trusted'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire


If it is better to burn out than fade away, the Confidence and Supply agreement holding the Government in place looks like it has been reduced to ashes.

Soon the 32nd Dáil will also be cast on history's cinder-heap.

By-election losses, and Dara Murphy's controversial departure to Europe, had pushed Fine Gael to the edge. "Very precarious," is how Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the balance of power.

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With some prospect of an orderly Brexit in sight, and a decision due on the North, the omens point to an imminent election.

It's true we don't live by symbols, but the appetite for keeping this particular show on the road is waning.

Politicians read their own meaning from cascading events, framing scenarios to their own advantage. Mr Varadkar recognises the economy is turbocharged, he has record revenues and employment levels to tout on doorsteps.

Avoiding a no-deal Brexit and securing an agreement that avoids a hard Border are singular achievements worthy of recognition.

So if Mr Varadkar is feeling comfortable about taking to the hustings, it's understandable.

However, no Government gets to weave its fate from the stories it tells itself.

The version that matters is the narrative the public constructs. They will decide.

Fianna Fáil, Labour, Sinn Féin and the Independents will all pounce on the record numbers on trolleys and the continuing health crisis.

They will also return again and again to the housing issue. After nine years in office the levels of homelessness, shortage of affordable houses and cost of rent are still causing untold hardship.

The Taoiseach's claim the Government can continue in office without agreement on an election date is unconvincing.

Whether it is a vote of no confidence or a snap general election at this point hardly matters.

The country faces many serious difficulties and stable government is crucial.

As far as Brexit goes we are scarcely through the first phase. There are also economic headwinds to be navigated. EU tax reform and over-dependence on windfalls from multinationals could have a critical impact on revenues down the line.

Governments come into office at the top of a cycle of hope and often depart in disillusion.

We have seen bad governments replaced by worse ones, and good ones replaced by better.

What matters is that substance is put above superficiality and spin.

It is up to all candidates to make their case and show they are worthy of trust.

The fragmentation of the political landscape is down to the fact established parties let themselves and their voters down. Yet taking an electorate for granted is one sure route to disaster.

Theresa May paid a heavy price for her hubris when she went to the country in the UK to get a majority she thought was her due.

Elections belong to the people. Politicians who forget that do so at their cost.

Irish Independent

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