Indecisions of reluctant incumbents - Dáil Éireann in state of stasis

IN the final act of Sean O’Casey’s play Juno and the Paycock, ‘Captain’ Jack Boyle drunkenly proclaims: “The whole world’s in a state o’ chassis.”

The famous line comes to mind when considering the world as we know it in the form of that celestial body called the Dáil.

It is not so much in a state of chassis as in a state of stasis, considering the apparent inability of our elected representatives to break out of this period of parliamentary inactivity.

The 32nd Dáil has twice failed to ratify nominations for taoiseach with a third vote expected today. In the meantime, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are holding talks but it cannot be down soley to these main parties to form a government. Everyone elected has an obligation to do so. Irish voters did not elect a county council or a talk shop — they elected legislators so it is incumbent on every TD and every Dáil grouping to at least seek to take on the responsibility of government.

In that respect, Sinn Féin’s attitude is particularly shameful. They have refused to even consider the idea of going into government and appear to be more concerned with advancing the interests of the party rather than the people. They are more Mé Féin than Sinn Féin.

Likewise, the Labour Party. While their reluctance to consider returning to government in the light of their disastrous election results is understandable, they also should put the needs of the many — the people — over the needs of the few.

Since the general election we have had a caretaker government in place and all it has been able to do is hold the fort and hope it doesn’t crumble.

While a caretaker administration can be tolerated for a short period it must not be allowed to go on indefinitely because there is work to be done, legislation to be proposed and passed, and crises to be dealt with.

While the politicians obfuscate, the situation for patients in our hospitals is getting worse; our national debt is soaring; industrial relations problems are emerging; and the housing crisis is worsening at an alarming rate.

The response by acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly is to assert that housing reforms are blocked by the protection of property rights under Article 43 of the Constitution.

That is a cop-out at best. Even the Supreme Court in a number of cases in recent years has suggested that property reforms are well within the scope of legislation. The Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, has proposed using compulsory purchase orders to buy back residential property sold recently to “vulture” funds and use it for social housing.

This is an excellent suggestion. Like the Supreme Court, he is frustrated at the usual mantra voiced by politicians that property rights have almost total constitutional protection and using that mistaken belief to do nothing.

The Government should follow his advice and enact legislation to acquire property from vulture funds at the price sold to them. If that is challenged in the courts, so be it.

Let the judges decide whether such legislation is unconstitutional or not. The government — and the vulture funds — might be surprised at the result.

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