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End petty squabbles and focus on inflation crisis

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Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty

The altercation between Tanáiste Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty in the Dáil last week intemperately sets the scene for what are likely to be a difficult few months for the Government ahead of what is expected to be one of the most important elections in decades. The Government has been besieged by the o pposition in recent months as the country emerged from the prolonged Covid pandemic, which has not entirely passed, into a cost-of-living crisis caused by a number of factors, not least the war in Ukraine.

Sinn Féin and opposition TDs in general have spared little in highlighting the difficulties faced by many families and people across the country as a result of soaring inflation, voiced yesterday during a protest march in Dublin that was addressed by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, other politicians and interest groups.

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin moved quickly on social media to present their man the victor in the clash between the two significant politicians, both with legitimate aspirations to play major roles in a future government.

As the smoke cleared from that particular altercation, the impression remaining was of a straight choice between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin to lead the next government or opposition, although Fianna Fáil in particular would dismiss such a binary choice at this stage in the election cycle.

All evidence from opinion polls, however, suggests the public increasingly sees the choice ahead in such terms, with parties Fianna Fáil, Labour, the Social Democrats, Greens and others to make up the numbers in a future coalition.

Indeed, there is a plausible argument that the Fine Gael leader is playing a longer game, intent to go into opposition with a view to returning to government at a future election. That may be the case. However, such speculation can be counterproductive.

In the here and now, people are facing real hardships in relation to the cost of living, which is likely to worsen later in the year and next year before an improvement in circumstances can be expected.

The threat to the wider economy is also becoming more apparent.

The best either Fine Gael or, for that matter, Fianna Fáil can do is manage the country through this particularly acute inflation crisis, trying to make life easier for people while also stewarding the overall economy.

The opposition will continue to highlight the difficulties experienced by families, and that, too, is an important role in any functioning democracy. That tempers can occasionally flare as witnessed last week is also to be expected.

Both Varadkar and Doherty are formidable politicians. One may be Taoiseach (or leader of the opposition) after the next election; the other may be finance minister or still occupying his current high-profile position.

However, it might be best if the deeply personal nature of their criticisms were avoided in the future. While the spectacle is a talking point for many and enjoyed by others — and indeed, useful in highlighting the issues in stark terms — the public still require assistance, if not solutions, to their current predicament.

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