A staggering level of political entitlement

A Letter From Ireland

a Chara,

I made it back to Ireland in time to witness the appointment of a new Taoiseach. Simon Harris, the new leader of Fine Gael, was elected by the Dáil (Irish Parliament) to head a coalition government alongside Fianna Fáil, and the Green Party. His nomination was supported by several “independent” TDs.

After returning from Washington following St. Patrick’s week, Leo Varadkar made the surprise announcement that he was standing down as Taoiseach. The current government has less than ten months left to operate. The Electoral Act of 1992 says that no Dáil can sit for more than 5 years from its first date of meeting, so the next election must take place before March 22, 2025. With local and European elections also set for early June, it seems that the outgoing Taoiseach believed that he was not best placed to lead his party into the elections.

Fine Gael has led the government for over 13 years.

Simon Harris takes over a party at a time when a number of his senior colleagues have indicated that they will not be seeking re-election. It is as if they, too, have seen the writing on the wall.

Harris is the third leader to hold the top position in four years following the 2020 election. That election was precipitated by a lack of confidence in the then Health Minister and now Taoiseach Simon Harris.

In 2020, Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party. Since the foundation of the state, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have controlled both government and opposition. They were interchangeable and indistinguishable.

Following the 2020 election, both parties broke with history (and election promises) and went into government together with the sole purpose of excluding Sinn Féin. The Green Party joined the government to make up the difference needed.

As part of the deal, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael decided on a deal where the Taoiseach’s position would be shared. Fianna Fáil for the first half of the term and Fine Gael for the second half. A rotating Taoiseach. All without going to the people to decide who would lead. It has been a staggering level of political entitlement from parties that have been in power for one hundred years.

Not surprisingly from a government formed on exclusion they end their term with increased homelessness, increased housing costs, increased health care waiting lists, and an increased cost of living.

This is a government that has lacked ambition and vision. They have refused to plan, prepare, or advocate for Irish Unity. They promised continuity as a cover for a lack of coherent strategy. Our people and our economy continue to pay the price.

So we now have a third Taoiseach since the 2020 election with voters relegated to the role of spectators.

A “new” leader that promises more of the same is good for neither the political system nor the people.

Is mise,

Ciarán

Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North AmericaEach week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.