An inconclusive general election has, unsurprisingly, led to an inconclusive period in our political system. But given that we were told that it could take at least two months to form a new government, this comes as no great surprise, even if it is somewhat disappointing.
Amidst the shadow boxing and the ‘will they, won’t they’ commentary over the past month or so, the Dáil meets tomorrow (Wednesday) where a vote to elect a Taoiseach shall be held.
A conclusive outcome, at this juncture, looks most unlikely, and one suspects that discussions between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil about a ‘partnership government’ or ‘modified coalition’, should be underway inside the next week.
Discussions by the two major parties with the Independent TDs, ongoing as we went to press, makes sense as far as we’re concerned.
Some ideas, such as standalone housing and rural ministries have been mooted, but the outgoing government had ministers of state with both those briefs – Paudie Coffey and Ann Phelan. And both lost their Dáil seats.
Are standalone senior levels merited or can we get more out of the existing Departments and get government working as efficiently as possible?
In terms of efficiencies, the Action Plan for Jobs led to a range of announcements and PR events in Waterford city over the past two years in particular.
And while this programme came with many merits, we believe it’s time we had an update on how many of the long list of action contained in the plan have been implemented by State agencies and local authorities.
Such plans need to be frequently revisited to make sure that the positive actions are actually followed and good decisions implemented. But with an acting Government in place, we would ask if sufficient focus is being given to such matters. Who, exactly is “keeping the (alleged) recovery going?”
As Simon Harris said this week, problems are clearly building up. For example, if Britain leaves the EU in June, there will need to be a plan to deal with the consequences that would arise with the need for new trade agreements and even the potential prospect of the re-introduction of a border with Northern Ireland.
Public sector unions representing teachers and those in the health service are also making demands. Meanwhile, over-runs in Department of Health spending due to high usage of services is another problem, with people living longer and requiring further care.
Major overdrafts look set to build up and the autumn Budget is likely to see less money being possibly distributed back into our pockets as the pay demands and other matters begin to pile up.
But what cannot be forgotten is that we still must submit annual budgets to the EU in Brussels and the European Central Bank so any new government must abide by European recommendations, whether they like it or not.
There are no magic wands out there which can make our problems evaporate, regardless of what political contrarians may suggest. And to see a considerable number of TDs effectively washing their hands of tackling major issues by rejecting a potential role in government is as predictable as it is disappointing.
There is an onus on both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to act sensibly in the next few weeks. Without their co-operation, another inconclusive general election would appear the likely outcome. So we hope they get talking soon and do what must be done.