Michael Healy-Rae: We cannot afford to have country go to the polls again

Is it not now time for everyone involved to set aside their differences and work together for the sake of the country? asks Michael Healy-Rae

The Irish people went to the polls on February 26, which is now more than 40 days ago.

The people did what was asked of them and they cast their votes — job done, end of story, as the fella would say. The votes were counted and 158 deputies were elected to the Dáil, including many new TDs.

What has happened since then has been a total farce. For more than five weeks, the two main parties refused to even talk to each other. Other parties and groupings made it quite clear from the outset that they had no notion of entering into discussions with anybody else. A bit like ‘I just wanted to run for office, sure you don’t expect me to run the office’. You really could not make this stuff up… It’s like children saying: “I’m not playing with you.”

Whilst I respect the decisions made by the various political parties, and no doubt they have very good reasons for taking the positions they have, is it not now time for everyone involved to set aside their differences and work together for the sake of the country?

A number of Independent TDs, including myself, were asked to participate in talks with Fine Gael and we did so. We also engaged in separate talks with Fianna Fáil. From the moment those talks began, I, and all the other Independents, asked the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, to sit down and talk to each other. Finally, last Wednesday, the leaders of the two main parties finally sat down face to face. The rest, as they say, is history.

From day one, Fine Gael made it clear the discussions were being held with a view to forming a partnership government. Now let’s face it, that is a new animal in the Irish political spectrum. So what does it mean? As far as I am concerned, it means putting party politics aside and working together for the good of the country.

Unfortunately, there is no family in this country which does not have some form of problem which needs to be immediately addressed. I have been inundated with calls from people all over the country asking for help with various issues. The housing crisis is of monumental proportions; rural Ireland is still searching for this so-called recovery; our health system is bursting at the seams; law and order is breaking down.

I could write books about the serious problems and issues facing this country but I don’t have time to do so because all I want is to continue what I’ve been doing all along and that is dealing with the problems.

It is time now for all 158 deputies to stop talking about the problems and get stuck into dealing with these.

Every day that goes by without a stable government in place is costing this country in terms of our international reputation. The outside world must be looking at us in amazement. The plain people of Ireland have suffered hugely in helping the country restore its international reputation and all this messing around cannot be helping that.

The longer the uncertainty continues, the greater the risks that international investors and Irish businesses looking to expand will think again and decide to look elsewhere. Goodbody Stockbrokers have already warned that the failure of our political parties to form a government could jeopardise the economic recovery. Merrion Stockbrokers have warned that a government must be in place to deal with the impact of a possible Brexit. A Brexit would have huge implications for Irish farmers and for all external trade — how many more reasons do we need to get this act together and put the show on the road?

So where to now? There appears to be only two options left: A minority government or another election.

Can we really go back to the electorate and ask them to do their job again? Is this going to be like the two votes on the Lisbon and Nice treaties? Is it a case of: “Sorry lads, we didn’t like your answer the first time, would you mind trying again and maybe you might get it right the second time? And, by the way, it will cost you €40m for the pleasure. And there probably won’t be much change in the numbers, but sure let’s just have the replay anyway. And, oh yes, while we’re all traipsing around the country knocking on your doors annoying the hell out of you the country will just have to run itself.”

Needless to say, I am totally against holding another election. This country does not need Election 2016 Mark II and quite simply we can’t afford it, both in terms of money and time.

A partnership government between the two main parties and some Independents would have provided the stability that this country needs, but unfortunately that option seems to be now off the table completely. Can that option be reactivated?

If a minority government is the only way forward, can all 158 deputies work together to put it in place right now? The posturing and dancing around must stop. If a referee is needed to help the process, like all good Kerry footballers down over the years, I am ready to tog out and take to the field.

Michael Healy-Rae is an Independent TD for Kerry


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