The challenge for Fine Gael is to offer hope and realism.

4th December, 2010

The challenge for Fine Gael is to offer hope and realism

The state of our politics is a sorry one indeed. Fianna Fail has abandoned the country. The Greens have abandoned Fianna Fail. And Labour has abandoned hope. This chorus now has a growing number of soloists advocating a unilateral default on our sovereign and banking debt. Of this quartet of despair, Labour’s is perhaps the most worrying.

At times of great national crisis, it is the job of politicians to lead. The recent comments by Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore that Ireland has “surrendered its economic freedom”, by his deputy that “Ireland is banjaxed” and by a former leader that Ireland is an “economic corpse”, are dangerous attempts to reflect the national gloom rather than help lift it out of it.

The challenge for Fine Gael now, then, is to rise above the fray and offer the country the kind of hope and confidence it needs to pull through.

That’s why when Eamon Gilmore was shouting across the Dail chamber that the Government had engaged in “surrender…of this country’s sovereignty” Enda Kenny, calmly and confidently, explained that the entire Budgetary process- ancillary legislation and all- could be passed by Christmas, allowing for a January election and a new Government with a new mandate by February.

This approach didn’t get as much coverage on the nine o’clock news as Eamon’s did. But it was entirely more helpful to the Dail and the country.

The reaction to the ECB/IMF deal is understandable but the challenge facing responsible politicians is to understand how it can work. We must be alive to the possibilities of the deal, not just the limitations. The depressing thing for me about this agreement is that it tells us to do many of the things we knew we needed to do anyway. Competition in sheltered sectors, swift implementation of the Croke Park deal, special resolution legislation for banks – we should not have needed the IMF to implement these policies.

Look. We know the mess we are in. There is no point on constantly playing the blame game now- the people know Fianna Fail got us here and will exact their revenge at the election.

What we need are answers.

What we need is a roadmap out of this- a roadmap that includes not just a solution to the banking crisis and a deficit reduction programme, but also whole sale reform of the Oireachtas, the public service and the health service. A roadmap that envisages Ireland as a renewable energy leader. A roadmap that, I am proud to say, Fine Gael has devised through its New Politics, Reinventing Government, Faircare and New Era documents as well as its pronouncements by Michael Noonan and Richard Bruton on the state of the finances and the need to promote employment growth.
Fine Gael do not have a monopoly on answers or wisdom. But those with competing visions need to spell out the consequences of their plans.

Do not honour the current ECB/IMF deal, then where do you get €20 billion per year to fund our services?

Default on sovereign debt, then how will you pay higher rates of interest on future borrowing for a generation?

So, in the words of the prayer, let us speak our truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others.

Fianna Fail have lost the election. Let the Opposition parties gain power not on the back of the people’s anger, but on the basis of their trust.