Sunday 8 December 2019

Leaders' debate tonight could yet prove crucial

'It seems, not for the first time in recent political history, that a hard fall is likely to be followed by a hard landing'
'It seems, not for the first time in recent political history, that a hard fall is likely to be followed by a hard landing'


A hard fall can be followed by a hard bounce, depending on substance. The plummeting fortunes of the Coalition suggest that the 'Recovery' mantra did not carry weight with the public - its substance was questioned. It seems, not for the first time in recent political history, that a hard fall is likely to be followed by a hard landing. Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton and Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams have all found themselves going backwards, through nobody's fault but their own.

From the outset, the consensus was that this election was the Coalition's to lose, and few imagined that the slide would be so accelerated. It is not surprising therefore that business leaders are getting a little anxious.

As matters unfold across the water and the prospect of a Brexit has to be looked at realistically, the case for strong leadership, a stamp of authority and political direction could hardly be more pressing. Instead, we have Sinn Féin and the Independents with a combined total of 43pc. Elections in Spain, Greece and Portugal threw up various leadership scenarios, which fuelled more uncertainty, doing little to shore up economic solidity.

A slipshod, and at times shambolic, campaign has holed Mr Kenny's promise to deliver stability below the waterline. We are moving inexorably towards a hung Dáil.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil between them have only managed to garner 51pc of the vote, if the polls are accurate.

Such a volatile political atmosphere points towards instability. With an estimated 18pc of the electorate yet to decide which way to vote, tonight's leadership debate could be more telling than most. With jobs and livelihoods on the line, it behoves all not just to think about what's on offer, but on who can deliver. There are ample permutations from which a government can be formed. No party has delivered a message sufficiently powerful or resonant with the electorate to assert real momentum. The time to do so is fast running out. Those who might wish a plague on all of their houses would do well to remember that the fate of the country is inextricably linked to that of the Dáil. Yet it would be a help if many of our politicians were as energised and as convincing about what they actually stand for as opposed to that which they stand against.

A right to protest does not include blockades

The American author Richard Armour wrote: "Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with Right or Left, instead of right or wrong." Once more, politicians have been stopped going about their democratic business by water protesters. It hardly matters whether the protesters were from the 'Right' or 'Left'; this was wrong. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had their cars stopped by protesters. The incidents were not as serious as that experienced by Joan Burton, but no one has the right to interfere with another person's right of free movement.

One can only imagine the paens of protest from water protesters were they to find their cars blocked when they sought to go about their daily lives by members of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael. The air would be thick with civil liberties claims.

In a democracy, the right to protest is absolute, but it does not come with the right to interfere with someone else. This weekend, the capital's main street was given over to water protesters, who held a dignified and legitimate demonstration.

Barracking and blockading politicians around the country are not rights and are a disservice to both politics and democracy.

Irish Independent

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