Enda Kenny met Micheál Martin on Wednesday night and put the option of a partnership government involving Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael and Independents on the table as he believed this would be the best thing for Ireland. Both leaders were still in discussions with Independent groups with a view to form a minority government.
Our parliamentary party considered the option and there was agreement that this option was not tenable. There are many reasons for this but the main one is that we went before the people in February and consistently said we were not going to go into a ‘grand coalition’.
For months before the election, any time I was asked would Fianna Fáil go into coalition with Fine Gael after the election, I always denied this would be considered and this was for many reasons.
These reasons have nothing to do with the Civil War and people who say this do not understand the differences between the two parties .There are distinct policy differences between the two parties but more fundamentally in the last five years they have made an extraordinary mess of tackling the housing and homelessness crisis.
In fact, they made it worse by inaction. There are still four families a day becoming homeless. Public services were allowed to be eroded and it took them five years to admit that their policy of Universal Health Insurance was a sham.
Fine Gael had the largest majority in the history of the State in the last five years and, as a result, they ignored the concerns of the people. They kept talking about an economic recovery that had not left the Red Cow roundabout and this annoyed people who were struggling to pay their bills.
They added on property and water tax without including ability to pay. The actions they took showed even a basic lack of decency.
As justice spokesman, I highlighted the rise of rural crime for years before they finally admitted it was a problem in 2015. They left it very late to recruit the extra gardaí that were needed and left the numbers dwindle to dangerous levels before they took any action.
They became out of touch very quickly. Mr Kenny promised a democratic revolution in 2011 yet he had to set up an inquiry to write a report about what was said at a meeting that he actually attended. He effectively sacked the former Garda commissioner but yet would not admit his role. There was constant detachment from reality and unfortunately it was his way or no way.
There was no room for compromise, even with constructive pieces of legislation that the opposition brought forward. The large majority allowed them to believe they could ignore everyone.
The people were given a choice on February 26 and they wanted a change of government.
We made a commitment to rule out coalition with Fine Gael and we are keeping our word. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of cynicism about politics because of broken promises. We are working very hard to rebuild trust with people since 2011 and decided not to make any promises that we could not keep. We are sticking with that promise, as we were given a mandate based on that.
Mr Martin will continue to try to form a minority government as no doubt Mr Kenny will, even though he doesn’t really believe it would work. A minority government is well capable of working, particularly if the reform proposals that were called for by Fianna Fáil are enacted.
If all parties are serious about political reform, there is no need for another election and a government can be formed to try and tackle the pressing issues that face the country. We will of course play a constructive and responsible role.
Since the foundation of the State, the Dáil has always had a centre-ground party in opposition. This was normally Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil and this has, I believe, served this country well.
I do not believe an amalgamation of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would be good for Ireland. It would actually have a very negative impact on how politics is done in this country. It could actually allow for a significant rise in the extreme left-wing parties and this would not be a positive development.
As the report of the banking inquiry confirmed, in the years before the recession, Dáil Éireann largely ignored the pressures which led to the dramatic events of 2008 and 2009. It was a forum for political debate rather than for a serious engagement with often complex public policy issues.
If we truly want to break the cycle of mistakes of the past, reforming politics is not an option — it is an essential step. Everyone will have to change and adapt to this.
In the past, governments have assumed full control of reform and used this control to implement limited changes. Deeper reform is only possible if this dynamic is broken. The general election result allows for this.
The idea that you can have a parliament where everything operates on the principle of consensus is clearly untenable — just look at the gridlock in the US Senate, where extreme views are capable of denying the moderate majority the ability to legislate.
However, the operation of the Dáil without any consensus is no longer credible. The Dáil should be a place where all TDs have the chance and obligation to deal with public business with the seriousness it deserves.
Only if we do this will the 32nd Dáil be able to begin the process of winning the confidence of the Irish people and it will allow a minority government work quite successfully. Where there is a will there is a way.
Niall Collins is a Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick County
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