| 17.5°C Dublin


We need composure - but coalition is giving us chaos

Editorial


Close

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin arriving at the Convention Centre Dublin for a Dáil session. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin arriving at the Convention Centre Dublin for a Dáil session. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin arriving at the Convention Centre Dublin for a Dáil session. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

After so many government U-turns, members of the 33rd Dáil may be unable to fully enjoy their holidays due to whiplash.

As Taoiseach Micheál Martin clashed with Paul Murphy of Rise in the Dáil, the words of Richard Armour hung in the air: "Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong."

Mr Murphy characterised the situation as "a shambles". Mr Martin seemed mightily put out.

"The assertion of shambles is wrong," he insisted.

He also appeared to bristle at being held responsible - for "operational decisions"..."people on the ground had responsibility for social protection".

As head of government, if Mr Martin still needs reminding of where the buck stops, we may be in more trouble than we feared.

Far from grappling with historic health and economic emergencies, the Government finds itself oscillating between being on the back-foot or being on the back-burner.

The ignominious climbdown on welfare recipients being free to travel to green list countries is but the latest embarrassment.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys has finally accepted her department might have communicated "more effectively" about PUP entitlements for those travelling overseas.

It might be convenient to let the matter rest there, but the extraordinarily ham-fisted way this entire matter was handled raises too many issues to be set aside without due explanation.

Where did the data come from that enabled the checks to be made, and why was the whole process rushed through before being put on a legal footing? Trust and integrity are fundamental in the current climate of anxiety, as the pandemic still stalks our every move.

But instead of concentrating on vital matters of national importance, the new government repeatedly finds itself ensnared by its own nets. The attention and energy diverted into rows over pay increases and who gets a state car - complete with driver - is not only a waste but a scandal.

We are seeing the worst face of what Ambrose Bierce described as: "The conduct of public affairs for private advantage." The conduct of the new government over its first month has been abject. When composure and consensus were required, we saw chaos and disunity.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was entirely justified in calling it out.

If they were going to penalise people for travelling abroad then it should be a punishment that was universal, she noted. Welfare payments do need to be kept in check. But this must be done transparently, equitably and legally. Mr Martin said Ms McDonald "loves throwing accusations", defending the Government's approach. But if the Coalition is so super-sensitive to criticism, it should take better care as to how it conducts itself.

The Government must use its break to take stock. By the time an administration realises a reputation is far easier kept than recovered, it is often too late.

Irish Independent