Editorial: ‘Martin’s FF critics need to face reality’

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Editorial: ‘Martin’s FF critics need to face reality’


Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

The Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, has said that his party has been criticised on an “almost daily basis” for extending the confidence and supply deal which supports the Fine Gael-led minority government.

It must be said that much of the criticism has come from within the ranks of Fianna Fail itself, not least, the parliamentary party. Such criticism is invalid, however.

In the UK, prime minister Theresa May has been criticised for, among other things, putting the Conservative Party above country in the Brexit process. There is some merit to that criticism.

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Mr Martin told the All-Ireland Civic Dialogue on Brexit last week that in the face of the scale of the Brexit threat, he believed Fianna Fail was right to say that the country simply could not afford the added risk of spending up to four months holding an election and forming a government. He is correct in that assessment.

The decision of Fianna Fail to extend the confidence and supply agreement was the right decision. Indeed, as the Fianna Fail leader has also pointed out, Ireland is the only minority government in Europe, including other countries which also face severe Brexit threats, which has received a guarantee that it can govern without worrying about an election at this critical phase in Brexit.

A question which Mr Martin’s critics in Fianna Fail must ask themselves is, what do they expect would happen were a general election to take place now? This month marks the third anniversary of the last such election. More than that, it is now eight years since Fine Gael re-entered government after a 14-year absence. It seems for many in Fianna Fail that this reality is becoming, or has become, too much to bear.

Within their increasingly vociferous agitation can be detected the Fianna Fail of old – the expectation of an almost divine right to high office and power. Has Fianna Fail’s new-found relative modesty fallen away? Indeed, the question can be asked: did it ever truly exist, or was it always contrived?

There is nothing wrong with any political party aspiring to office. That is to be expected and encouraged. But for the Fianna Fail leader’s critics, internal and external, to attempt to undermine his decision at this crucial time is unpardonable.

It also ignores the new reality of politics in modern Ireland – that minority governments supported by confidence and supply agreements look set to become a feature here. Mr Martin’s critics might be better advised to attend to their duties as policymakers, rather than agitating to achieve power that they have shown scant responsibility to exercise.

The Government, meanwhile, should get on with making provision for Brexit – hard, soft, or no-deal – to better prepare this country for what lies ahead. In this regard, much has been done, but much more needs to be done, particularly to best ready small indigenous firms, the backbone of the economy, to help mitigate the worst of Brexit.

So far, the Government has been leading reasonably well in this area, and Micheal Martin, too, has shown admirable and responsible leadership for which he should be commended.

The last thing this country needs now is a general election.

Sunday Independent

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