The constructive consensus

4th February, 2012

Although it isn’t surprising to hear Sinn Fein and the anti-EU brigade on the independent benches bleating about “lack of democracy” around the EU fiscal compact and the possibility of not having a referendum, it is a new development to see Fianna Fail join the chorus. I am not the first to point out that we live in a representative democracy. As Stephen Collins rightly says in his Irish Times column, if the law is in line with Bunreacht na hEireann, the Oireachtas decides. If not, the people do. Deciding on proposals that are in line with the Constitution is what I, as a TD, am paid to do. It’s what Mícheal Martin is paid to do as well.

Populism is a dangerous thing, and if Fianna Fail think they can recover their popularity by playing to an anti-EU, anti-austerity, anti-everything rabble, they will soon learn the error of their ways. The only way they can ever hope of being major political players again is, as Fine Gael did back in 2002, oppose when it believes the Government is getting it wrong but be part of the constructive consensus towards progress.

I make no bones about the fact that the ideas of Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party, People Before Profit and the anti-EU independents, all of which number about 25 Dail deputies, would destroy this country. The Government agenda, represented by over 110 deputies, will help rebuild it. Those in the middle- Fianna Fail and deputies like Stephen Donnelly, Shane Ross and others, have over the last year made some helpful and some not-so helpful interventions.

Fine Gael and Labour do not have a monopoly on wisdom. But as the political dialogue over the EU hardens in the months to come, Fianna Fail and others have a choice. Be part of the solution. Or part of the problem.