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Late injection of urgency is welcome but overdue

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Any emerging deal will require ratification by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party membership. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Any emerging deal will require ratification by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party membership. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Any emerging deal will require ratification by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party membership. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Coalition negotiating teams will forgo their sunny bank holiday today to resume talks adjourned from Saturday. A belated injection of urgency, on day 114 since the election, is welcome.

Lamenting for so much time wasted so far is undoubtedly pointless in some respects. But it is, for all that, worth reflecting that talks between all three parties only began in earnest just 18 days ago.

It is even worse than the situation in 2016 when the entire process, spread over 70 days, was really telescoped into little more than two weeks. 

This time, for all the acknowledged difficulties of bridging serious differences, the likely three-party configuration of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party was apparent as the election counts were drawing to a close.

Echoes from these government-making talks suggest there is still some way to go, but every citizen will now agree it is time our political leaders smartened up their act. A deal is possible this week, but less than likely to happen because, by tradition, compromise takes time. 

Yet time is now a scarce commodity for all of us as the country slowly opens up after the coronavirus lockdown and the economic and social consequences must be faced. A new Taoiseach and government with a clear democratic mandate are urgently required.

So, the negotiators' weekend work is indeed long overdue. And it is very definitely worth saying again that a government in this time of unprecedented crisis is vitally necessary.

We realise the talks are now reaching the really "hard nut issues" - the ones which are the source of most disagreement. These include the future direction of agriculture policy, how precisely to achieve a 7pc per year reduction in carbon emissions, and how to re-frame transport policies.

But a coalition agreement is now more seriously likely than a no-deal breakdown. So, a result should be delivered sooner and not later.

Any emerging deal will require ratification by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party membership. That process is, at kindest estimate, likely to take 10 further days. All of that brings us up some time towards the end of this new month of June before we get the required new Taoiseach and government.

Fine Gael appears to have the easier ratification process with half the say going to TDs, senators and MEPs, and the remainder split between the membership, councillors, and national executive. Fianna Fáil is next up with a postal ballot planned for all its members and a required simple majority sufficing.

Green Party ratification will be the toughest, given its two-thirds majority requirement in another postal vote. That is always a high bar for approval and the stance of its parliamentary party members, 10 of whom are newcomers to Leinster House, will be crucial. It is complicated by a pending leadership contest which is a proxy battle over coalition.

But, all that said, these holiday weekend talks are welcome.   

Irish Independent