Enniscorthy Guardian

| 7.1°C Dublin

Farcical coalition talks are an insult to a people facing a national crisis

Opinion

It has now been four weeks since voters went to the polls and returned one of the most divided Dáil's in the history of the State.

In the immediate wake of the election it was obvious that forming a government would be a long and arduous task.

Looking back to 2016 a wait of several months seemed likely. Now, with the three main parties seemingly engaged in a talks stand-off, that looks wildly optimistic.

In one of the most bizarre stances ever adopted by an Irish political party - indeed by any party anywhere - Fine Gael want to stay out of Government. They're happy to be at the disco but want to stay at the bar.

Fianna Fáil - whose leader opposes any deal with Sinn Féin and whose members are equally aghast at any deal with Fine Gael - want to dance but can't find a suitable partner.

Sinn Féin, meanwhile, are waiting in the wings, quietly wooing ever more admirers as their dream of a crowd pleasing solo routine grows ever closer.

Amid this farce we have heard vague details about negotiation teams and talks about talks but in four weeks nothing remotely concrete has emerged.

A month after the election the state of play is practically the same as the morning after it, in political terms at least.

For while Leo, Micheál and Mary Lou do their coalition polka, an existential crisis has erupted in Ireland and across Europe.

The Coronavirus - COVID-19 to give it its proper title - arrival in Ireland is not a surprise but it has sparked genuine fear among swathes of the population, particularly the elderly and the ill.

Panic buying is starting in shops; advice lines are jammed and hand sanitisers and face masks are like gold dust.

Yes, a functioning 'caretaker' government is in place but many people are anxious about Mr Varadakar' and his team's ability to get a handle on this crisis.

The government's past handling of the health service does little to inspire confidence and its handling of the COVID-19 crisis to date has failed to provide much reassurance to a significant portion of the population.

The handling of the St Patrick's Day celebrations are perhaps the worst example of this.

Across Europe large events are being called off - left, right and centre. By Monday morning, a quarter of Italy was in lock-down while any gatherings of more than a 1,000 people had been banned in France with Germany set to follow suit.

In Ireland on Monday morning our political masters were still debating the pros and cons of calling off St Patrick's Day parades.

Feeling an absence of leadership on the parades issue, some communities have taken matters into their own hands and called of their local celebrations.

That local St Patrick's Day committees seem to have a better grasp on dealing with the epidemic than the government, sums up the sorry situation we find ourselves in.

We need leadership and it is time for our political leaders to forget about vanity and do what's in the best interest of the county.

Enniscorthy Guardian