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'This is the only government... Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin shouldn't even bother with manifestos'

The choice facing the electorate at the next election will be between this government and no government, argues Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

Brendan Howlin Leader, Labour Party

TODAY, THE CABINET agreed to proposals by my colleague, Labour TD Willie Penrose, to reduce the bankruptcy period from three years to one, in a bid to further assist those burdened by unsustainable debt.

I’m confident that by the end of the Dáil’s term, they will have become law, thereby delivering on another core Labour objective. This, in turn, will be another example of the balance Labour has brought to this coalition government.

I think it’s fair to say Fine Gael didn’t initially see the need to reduce the term from three years to one. But we both share a determination to do the best by our people, and negotiation and compromise does the rest.

The housing supply and rent stability package was another recent example of the two parties finding an agreed way forward in the country’s long-term interests. That’s the difference between us and the opposition.

Labour and Fine Gael have worked together successfully for five years to turn the country around. We have differences but we put the country first.

The choice facing the electorate at the next election will be between this government and no government.

In normal times, there is usually a semblance of an alternative from the opposition. Not this time though. The simple truth is that there is no alternative government on offer.

‘From sublime to the ridiculous’

Are things that bad? They are.

Fianna Fail’s director of elections, Billy Kelleher, effectively admitted his party has no intention of being in government after the next election. He was slapped down by the party’s general secretary who talked about Fianna Fáil leading a government. Very much a case of going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

When the crunch comes, Sinn Fein don’t walk the walk – they simply walk off the pitch. Now Fianna Fail have joined them. Gerry’s solution to his credibility gap has been to seek to create an alliance with the far left.

Now, a normal left might be interested in doing business. The Portuguese communists have cut a deal with the Portuguese socialists to replace the outgoing centre-right coalition. In Ireland though, Gerry was rebuffed by the far left, who wasted no time in proving they are incapable of the coherence required to do government with anybody.

original Gerry Adams ad Micheál Martin Source: TheJournal.ie

Now that Sinn Féin have signed up to more austerity in Northern Ireland by accepting UK welfare reform and the loss of 5,000 more public service jobs, I fear the Trots’ grá for Gerry will diminish even further.

So if opposition won’t do business with each other, their only other option in terms of forming a government would be to do so with Fine Gael. But this won’t happen. Neither Micheál nor Gerry wants to do business with Enda, and Enda, understandably, won’t do business with them. So Gerry and Michael are ruling out this option.

Or are they lying? Some in the media are arguing that they should consider this option. In other words, tell one thing to the people during the election and suit themselves afterwards. But the media, the public and their own supporters, who will have been lied to, will kill them for it.

Consider this anarchy alongside the case for stability. In contrast to Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, here we are recruiting guards, nurses and teachers again, investing in new schools, roads, rail links and essential services, and paying a Christmas bonus to our pensioners, carers, disabled people and other vulnerable groups.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve added 56,000 jobs. Behind every new job is a person or family benefitting from the recovery. Now, the government is focused on how we add the next 56,000, and the next 56,000 after that.

‘No interest in being in government’

Neither Fianna Fáil nor Sinn Féin have anything to offer on this front, because they have no interest in being in government. Taken to its logical conclusion, they shouldn’t bother with manifestos – they have no intention of implementing any policies. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny.

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Ireland has just emerged from its worst recession in a century. The economy is recovering strongly. Jobs are being created, private sector wages are rising, public servants’ pay is to be gradually restored and we’re unwinding Fianna Fail’s hated tax rises too.

More significantly, by year end, we will no longer be borrowing to pay for our day-to-day living costs. We will only be borrowing for sensible investment purposes. Who would have thought that possible five years ago? It is a remarkable turnaround, built on the sacrifices people have made and their willingness to stay the course.

Now, the task is to ensure we don’t throw it away. We need stable and balanced government for the next five years to secure the recovery and spread the benefits.

Labour may not be riding high in the polls, but at least we’re not afraid of taking on the responsibility of governing and the spadework to get things done.

Gerry and Martin are asking the public to play Opposition Roulette and see what happens. But be warned. It’s a risky business and the country might just lose its shirt.

We did before.

Brendan Howlin is the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and a Labour TD for Wexford 

Read: Sinn Féin now insists coalition with Fianna Fáil is ‘extremely unlikely’

Read: Joan Burton reckons the improving economy means people can go on dates again

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About the author:

Brendan Howlin  / Leader, Labour Party

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