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I went to Berlin last week and expected on my return to see progress made on creating a new Government. But far from it: the shadow boxing continues and, on the radio, Fianna Fail’s Billy Kelleher sounds terrified by his own party’s mandate, and by having to take any responsibility.

The ‘cute hoor’ dithering has become tiresome and quite frankly the resistance of Fianna Fail to going into a coalition with Fine Gael is not only selfish and dangerous, but not at all in the national interest.

While I was in Berlin, at an international political conference, I had to explain to curious inquirers about why we still have no Government. Such a torturous process was well understood: my listeners come from political systems where often complex coalitions are assembled. However, such alliances are done on ideological grounds – or do not happen because of an ideological divide.

My foreign enquirers did not understand how a Government could not be formed only because the two parties are basically in consumer competition with each other – and nothing else. They were baffled, given that both parties are centrist, either slightly to the right, or left, but very much centrist. FF and FG are both national movements, and effectively the same.

And despite the growing international issues, with a terror and refugee crisis in Europe and a Brexit possibility looming, these two main parties still cannot create a government – because they have to preserve their own identity, party jobs, perks and local allegiances.

FF is particularly responsible in this regard. They are putting party before country, despite all their patriotic blather, and doing what is patently not in the national interest. Ordinary FF members may be against a FG coalition but the general public is not and surely that matters more.

Yes, FF said during the election that they wouldn’t go into government with FG. But they shouldn’t have, just as they shouldn’t have said they’d abolish Irish water, another rash promise they are trying to retreat from.

All the reasons FF offer against coalition are bogus. Like, that Enda shouldn’t be leader and Taoiseach in such an arrangement. Why not? He got more votes than Michael Martin. Or that Sinn Fein would then dominate the Opposition – as if FF, or FG, should be allowed to shape the Opposition as well.

So what – let Sinn Fein have the Opposition space! They may end up staying there. Clearly, FF is afraid to form a Government in case it becomes unpopular. Oh, the poor dears. Or worse still, the government might actually work and the public will like it so much they’ll want FF and FG to stay together – and maybe even merge. What a conundrum! Life was so much easier in the old days, wasn’t it?

The other shibboleth is that Dail and Senate reform should come first. Really – before the formation of a Government? And where’s this Seanad reform anyway? Would it be Micheal Martin stuffing the second chamber with his Almost TDs and political has-beens.

The volte-face on this issue has been truly astonishing, just a week after Martin’s grand announcements on political reform. Clearly, it is business as usual for FF and cynicism has won the day.

Just as it has on the broader issue of coalition. And sadly we sort of go along with this game. Indeed, such is our apparent reverence for the whole intrigue of the ‘political process’ – as opposed to our utmost concern for what is good for the country – that we are expected to be concerned that FF might suffer seat losses after such an arrangement, and the party lose its identity.

Who cares! We want a Government, and a stable economy and country. We’ve had enough politicking.

We were promised a new way of doing things and a so-called democratic revolution after the crash of 2010. And it was FF which presided over that crash – with their reckless spending and economics.

Surely, the least FF can do now, for recompense, and in return for being allowed back by a forgiving electorate, is to get over their party pride and self-preservation, and go into a national Government that will steer the ship of State in what are very troubled times.

And while the two big parties hang back like wallflowers at a country dance, the smaller parties enter into discussions and show the way in political maturity. But as Denis Naughten, the new de facto leader of the rural TDs has said, how can they do a durable deal when the big parties are hanging back?

As a diplomat, in the US in the early 1990s, I got fed up trying to explain to foreigners, Ireland’s strange situation of being a Republic but not having divorce and family planning or a proper division between church and State.

I also got fed up explaining how Ireland is a neutral country but is still pro American and allows the US military to refuel at Shannon.

Now, I am fed up explaining why Ireland can’t have an obvious Government coalition because our two main parties have their origins in our Civil War of 1923 and because they field politicians with competing personal ambitions, perks and allowances! We have moved on and the people want a Government that makes the most sense.

So, just get on with it

 

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