Forming a Government - It’s time for pragmatism, not vanity

THE challenges facing this society are numerous and only too well-rehearsed. 

We have a shaming housing crisis; a well-resourced, but under-performing health service; an under-resourced and overloaded educational system, and a less than prudent commitment to the kind of capital investment that may foster growth and optimism.

The list could go on, ad nauseam, but not one issue will be resolved, or even confronted, unless a stable, secure, and ambitious government can be formed over the coming weeks.

Despite that simple reality, and the litany of difficulties unnecessarily limiting so many citizens’ lives, the two parties best in a position to deliver functioning, robust government — Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil — persist with the vainglorious fantasy that they represent incompatible principles and ambitions.

One preposterously imagines itself chalk, the other cheese. If Cathleen Ní Houlihan were alive, she would clip these petulant children around the ears and demand that they accept the obligation that the arithmetic of the 32nd Dáil imposes on them.

All of us have had to work in circumstances we imagine are less than ideal, circumstances that challenge our old comforts and truths.

It’s well past time that these two parties accepted that they are in that very situation and that they got on with the business of remaking this country. That, after all, is what they were elected — and paid — to do.

The options are limited. When 158 deputies return to Leinster House this week, they will have to deal with the consequences of the most indecisive election in the State’s short history.

The election pointed to four possibilities: a Fine Gael-led minority government; a Fianna Fáil-led minority government; a partnership of those old antagonists; or another election within months, if not weeks.

An early election would be an exercise in petulance, with those capable of forming a government throwing their toys out of the pram, because a coalition, or a partnership, or a relationship of equals, call it what you will, does not suit their long-term ambitions — even if it would suit the country.

This would border on an anti-democratic defiance of the electorate’s decision.

The idea of a minority government, no matter who leads it, is hardly watertight. The numbers needed to create stability do not exist.

A minority government would be an expression of dead-hand tribalism and political ambition over national duty, which should be severely punished by the electorate at the inevitable early election.

If it is fair to criticise Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for defining tomorrow through their great-grandparents’ hatreds, then it is fair to criticise those who see this Dáil as a stepping stone to eventual power. Sinn Féin, the AAA, and People Before Profit stand on the sideline, like drunks at a football match, ready to undermine any effort at realising stability.

Their position is sinister and cynical and an affront to the gift of democracy.

This is a small, and, like it or not, dependent country in an ever-more-fractured and volatile wold. We cannot afford the silly games of old.

We need a strong, unified Government, pretty quickly, and any politician who does not see, and accept, that has chosen the wrong vocation.

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