Irish Examiner View: A morning for modest optimism

Irish Examiner View: A morning for modest optimism
President Higgins presents new ministers with their Seal of Office at Dublin Castle. PIC: MAXWELLS

A Government is born.

Optimism is a fickle, mercurial thing. It can be misplaced, ultimately bruising, it involves risk. It can also be empowering and self-fulfilling.

Most of us, if circumstances allow, prefer to be optimistic, especially if the immediate alternative is altogether too grim to contemplate. Some of us are instinctively optimistic, indeed a blessing beyond price. The converse is also true.

A minority, thankfully for them and for us, almost make pessimism an art form, even if, like economics, a dismal one.

Despite the disaffection and deliberate dishonesties of social media’s ever more aggressive naysayers, this seems a morning when it is possible to be optimistic about our new Government.

The country may not be awash with Champagne-grade optimism — there are simply too many very real challenges — but it hardly seems a moment to build, much less man, the barricades either.

There are unprecedented social, political, economic, and philosophical challenges but they will — hopefully — be matched by Saturday’s unprecedented response from our political class.

Time may prove that hope, like so many others before, naive but if optimism is to be a force rather than an indulgence then this, and what will be a very short honeymoon, seems a day to be optimistic. How long that feeling might last is, of course, subjective.

That hope is partially provoked by Friday’s unquestionable endorsement of the coalition by the electorate of the three parties involved.

Each vote was emphatic, at least three-to-one in favour in each case. Polling left no toxic, almost irresolvable hostages to fortune, like Britain’s disastrous 48%-52% Brexit vote.

Cynics may argue, with the weight of history on their side, that Saturday’s events were the to-be-expected response when power was on offer, but maybe not. Just maybe.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have a deep understanding of how opportunism — optimism by another name — can be decisive but not only will they be watching each others’ every move in a new, up-close-and-personal way, the Greens bring a new kind of belief-driven oversight too.

This optimism is also informed by the fact that many of those who voted and campaigned for coalition did so in the knowledge that they might be voting to end their ministerial careers. Eight Fine Gael Brahmins lost Cabinet seats, while several Fianna Fáil front-liners with real, plausible ambitions must have been disappointed when the Cabinet was named.

That is, for some at least, a glass-half-empty view but that this is the first cabinet in the history of the State drawn from these three parties must auger well.

Again, only time can tell.


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