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Unity must trump dissent in the Dail

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'It is vitally important that the Government acts as one.' (stock photo)

'It is vitally important that the Government acts as one.' (stock photo)

'It is vitally important that the Government acts as one.' (stock photo)

The new Government has got off to a difficult start, limping towards the Dail summer recess looking the worse for wear after a few short weeks in office. This does not augur well for what will be a challenging period ahead when a fuller economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic becomes more apparent.

It has not been all bad news for the coalition of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens, which managed to introduce core policies in several areas: an emergency budget was prepared, relations in Northern Ireland were restored, and a hugely complex plan to reopen the schools was developed and funded.

Furthermore, coronavirus is being kept under control although concerns are growing on this front too. In addition, a reasonable stimulus package was negotiated at European Union level.

However, the broad consensus is that the cohesion of the Government is wayward. This will have to be corrected before the Dail resumes in autumn.

In this regard, the Green Party has a critical role to play. After a good election, the Greens entered this Government with strong support from its membership, although before and since then, divisions have emerged within the parliamentary party and among key supporters of individual politicians which last week resulted in a minister undermining, and another high-profile TD voting against, the Government of which they are members or have signed up to support.

For this, the Green Party leadership more 'tapped on the shoulder' than 'slapped on the wrist' the TDs concerned, let alone imposed a more severe penalty - a decision which may give carte blanche to other internal opponents within the three Government parties to follow the example of the Green TDs concerned. This would be a regrettable state of affairs. While open discussion and the expression of varied opinions should be always welcome in any government, indiscipline in the face of majority decisions is always a recipe for poor governance.

The Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, with the support of the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste, must spend the summer break robustly convincing colleagues that the Government should present a coherent and united front this autumn.

For several months, indeed years, the public complained that a majority government was not in place and there has been some questioning of the authority behind some decisions made more recently by the outgoing previous administration.

However, a majority Government is now in place. It has survived a shaky start, introducing 10 new Bills to boot. The time has come to concentrate on the serious issues ahead.

Almost-daily outbreaks of dissent are distractions, important though some of the issues highlighted may be. But decisions to be made on the big issues ahead - the reopening of schools, the Budget and Brexit - will be what really matter.

To that end, it is vitally important that the Government acts as one and in the best interests of the country it was elected to represent and serve.

Sunday Independent