Howlin: Fine Gael internal wrangling and dysfunctional Dáil puts country at risk

Ireland faces a situation as potentially dangerous as the economic crash of 2008, following Brexit, yet Fine Gael is engaged in internal warfare and the Dáil is the most dysfunctional it has ever been.

That was the view Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin gave in Cork yesterday.

The former minister also said he was not even sure the current Government would last until the end of this week, never mind see out a full term in office.

A former minister with portfolios in health, environment, and public expenditure and reform, he spoke of the “need for strong leadership in the face of a power vacuum in Britain”.

Home secretary Theresa May seems set to succeed David Cameron as the 76th British prime minister following the withdrawal of her only rival for the post, Andrea Leadsom.

It means Brexit will have to be negotiated by a leader who campaigned to stay in the European Union.

Mr Howlin said: “I said I would give the Government a year — that it would last until May 2017. I’m not sure it would last until the end of the week at the moment. It is a dysfunctional Dáil for a start, enacting no legislation

“There is internal warfare already in Fine Gael when we need strong leadership. We have more at stake than any other country when it comes to Brexit yet we don’t have a strong government.

“The Dáil is more like a debating society rather than a parliament.”

Mr Howlin said that, as public expenditure minister in the last coalition, he had pushed very hard for a delay in imposing water charges and Labour considered pulling the plug on the government over the issue.

“We pushed it through in three years under the pressure of the troika when it should have taken 10,” he said. “The most important meeting on the water charges issue was a four-person meeting with myself, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Michael Noonan. Eamon Gilmore pushed very hard for a delay. We hadn’t prepared people, we were frightened of the consequences but Fine Gael, at the time, insisted on motoring on. We were trenchant on it. We accepted that the alternative was to pull down the government and we thought about that. It probably would have been better for the party but the country was hanging over a cliff and the fallout would have been horrendous.”

He criticised some TDs on the far left as “anarchists who didn’t want to be in power”, claiming they did not believe in parliamentary democracy and were only interested in “killing off the Labour Party”.

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