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No future for the flip-flop

THE flip-flop seems to be the favoured choice of footwear worn by Fianna Fail this week. Early in the week the party's new leader Micheal Martin proved himself to be singularly out of step with the mood of the nation when he appeared adamant that he would not be forgoing a ministerial severance payment of almost €90,000.

Yesterday he was busy reversing his position, insisting that he simply needed time to think about it.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who has so far committed this country to forking out up to €100bn between paying for the banks and NAMA, suddenly found himself reluctant to sign off on a further €7bn payment to which we are already committed, because he felt he had no mandate to do so.

Mr Lenihan evidently has a short memory. When pressed for an early election and with the Government hanging on by a thread, Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted that there was no requirement to do so because he had a cast-iron mandate.

Then yesterday Tanaiste and Health Minister Mary Coughlan executed something approaching a U-turn, this time it concerned stopping payments to trainee nurses.

She, too, had been not for turning. What made her resolve to reconsider? Could it have been INO chief Liam Doran's threat to use his union's voting block to target FF candidates?

It is often said that we are a very ancient nation but a very young state. This election is being monitored internationally like no other.

The test is to see whether our would-be leaders have the maturity to come of age and meet our massive responsibilities.

So far their examples have been less than encouraging.

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