The result of the general election seems to have rocked the political status quo in Ireland. For nearly a century either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael have governed this country and been the dominant forces of Irish politics.
Sinn Féin are now serious challengers as they won 24.5% of the vote, but the mandate they received has not been accepted by Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
Neither party will enter talks with SF citing that they are unfit for government due to their economic policies and the party’s history and legacy from the Troubles. FF claim that “shadowy” figures from the armed struggle continue to control SF. The outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar continued the hysteria by describing SF planned post-election rallies as part of a “campaign of intimidation”. All parties have skeletons in their closets as the Mahon, Flood, and Moriarty Tribunals exposed.
The Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 thankfully brought an end to the Troubles and SF played a pivotal role in bringing an end to the conflict. Since the collapse of Stormont in 2017 both FG and FF have been demanding SF go back into government in the North. They are good enough to be in government in the North, but they are unfit to be part of any government in the Republic. SF are accepted in a power-sharing Stormont assembly by the DUP, SDLP, and Alliance Party.
These parties may have very different ideologies and cultural narratives, but they share power and work together for the benefit of all communities in the North.
All parties are working collectively to build a society where difference is accepted and respected. The power-sharing government is supported by the EU, Irish and British governments and all political parties in the Republic.
The FG and FF strategy to undermine SF is also a tactic to deflect from their own failings and an attempt to hold onto power. FG is constantly referring to the booming economy yet 10,000 people are homeless, and the health service is in crisis. The younger generation cannot afford to buy houses and are paying exorbitant rent that is curtailing their efforts to save a deposit.
Aligned with the housing and health issues, the cost of childcare, climate change, crime, car, and house insurance and pension rights were the issues that mattered to the voters. Our economy has begun to recover but unfortunately, the benefits have not reached most of our citizens.
The booming economy has done little for the people living beside the Shannon as their homes and lands continue to be flooded. FF has supported FG in government over the past nine years and people see no difference between the parties. Voters observed FF’s lack of action when FG presided over a massive overspend on the children’s hospital and the rolling out of rural broadband. The democratic mandate that SF received in the election cannot be dismissed or sidelined by FF and FG. We are now facing a huge global and national crisis as the coronavirus threatens our health,social and economic capacities. FF leader Micheál Martin is now talking about a radical change in the way our country is governed.
A coalition between FF and FG is certainly not a radical change but a continuation of the status quo delivering the same failed policies. Perhaps its time for a national government like in the North where power is shared between all parties. This would give us the strength and cohesion to tackle the housing and health crisis and the consequences of the coronavirus.
In 1848 a wise republican stressed that “the past is by definition a fact that nothing can modify, but knowledge of the past is a thing in progress, which progresses and changes without end”.
The electorate wants a government that will bring real change and hope for the future. It’s time to move on.