LESS than five months after it was formed, and more than half of which comprised the summer recess, we have a minority government that has stalled like a spluttering banger of a car which may never become fully roadworthy again.
With a vehicle, the considerations at this stage would be whether to carry out enough running repairs to keep it going for another while or to cut one’s losses by scrapping it and going for a replacement model. From a financial viewpoint, trying to repair it for the short term could be like throwing good money after bad, but might still be cheaper than having to go for a shiny new vehicle.
The trouble on the political front is that there are not too many shiny new models to choose from out there and there does not seem to be a great appetite for getting rid of the underperforming government we are stuck with for now so soon after this year’s general election as the fear is that a new poll could prove just as inconclusive. In spite of all their rhetoric, those in opposition will not be chomping at the bit to get into government right now, given the winter of discontent it is facing into on several fronts when our TDs finally make their way back to the Dáil on September 21st after their summer holidays. They will hardly be back a fortnight when Budget 2017 is due to be announced and that is likely to prove as damp a squib as the government itself, given how little fiscal wriggle room Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has – a stark contrast to last year’s pre-election giveaway budget.
The most annoying thing about the current scenario is that the Fine Gael-led government does not seem too perturbed about the fact that it is going nowhere slowly and there is a sense of inevitability about the chaos that is building and which will add a lot more to their current woes. Fianna Fáil’s begrudging support is like the tail wagging the dog – an unfortunate animal that is made itchy by an infestation of independents, some of whom seem more concerned about their own political survival than anything else.
Last week, we had Independent Alliance member, Minister of State John Halligan, grandstanding over what he saw as a red-line issue for him in his constituency concerning Waterford Hospital as he initially went out on a limb over it and than pulled back from the brink to bide his time further when things did not seem to be going his way. The government will probably have to put up with many more such ploys from within its ranks during its uncertain lifetime.
The biggest nuisance for the government over the coming months will be from large groups of workers seeking pay rises and who have no compunction about holding the country to ransom in order to get their way. Currently, we have a series of Dublin Bus strikes as employees try to emulate their Luas colleagues by seeking excessive pay rises.
There is industrial unrest amongst secondary school teachers who are members of the ASTI and are holding the threat of strike action over the government. There is also discontent within the ranks of An Garda Siochána who have similar grievances over the lower pay and less-favourable conditions being offered to new entrants to the force.
As time moves on, the implications of the decision of Britain to leave the European Union will begin to emerge and they are more likely to impact negatively rather than positively on us, especially given that the fall in the value of sterling since the Brexit referendum will have made a dent in our exports revenues. Then there is the potential impact that the EU Competition Commissioner’s ruling on Apple’s tax affairs could have on us.
While we crave political stability, the collapse of this shaky minority government is inevitable. What we don’t know at this stage is when and how – or whether sooner or later would be better.
Sometimes, it is more humane to put wounded animals out of their misery in order to end their suffering. Many politicians, however, seem to be suckers for punishment!