Late on Monday, February 10th (almost two months ago, I typed up my thoughts on how Fianna Fáil should approach the issue of government formation. These were informed by the countless texts, chats and whatsapp posts I had with political friends in the hours since the election outcome had become clear.
I shared this document with several Fianna Fáil party colleagues at the time. It was was my attempt to help frame the Fianna Fáil approach to government formation. An approach I felt then – and still feel now – must be informed by the reality of the GE2020 result.
Though the promises and plans that were made then may no longer be viable in the post Covid19 world, the people had their say and it cannot be simply ignored. Similarly, while this note was written in advance of the enormous impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has made on day to day life in Ireland, I believe the principles set out below still stand.
Indeed the Coronavirus crisis emphasises the need for collective political action in the national interest. The WHO has declared this pandemic as the greatest threat to human health since WWII, if this is not a time for a national unity government of all the parties in the Dáil who wish to participate, when would be? (Note: it would be a matter for individual parties or individuals to decide if they wish to exclude themselves, not for others.)
They were written with the aim of starting a conversation. They were not intended as a final document. I am posting these again now as an another attempt to re-start that debate, a debate that never took place.
It is a worrying pattern of behaviour. Not only has there been no discussion of how Fianna Fáil should approach government formation, neither absence of any meaningful or informed consideration of what happened in GE2020, especially related to the issue of the Fianna Fáil leadership’s conduct of that campaign, particularly on the policy side.
This continuing absence of debate, discussion or consultation has resulted in the party being led unsteadily along the current narrow path.
Though the Fianna Fáil leader has gone a long way down the path of pursuing his preferred option of a government comprising Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green (or Labour)/Inds it is still not too late to stop and reflect fully of where that path leads and how much it (a) takes account of what the people said in GE2020 and (b). the major changes that have happended since and their long reaching effects.
This is what I wrote on February 10th, 2020:
I think we need to make clear that:
- We hear and understand what voters are saying
- Our views on Sinn Féin have not changed
- We put the people first
- We will be driven by policies not partisanship
The principles on which Fianna Fáil approaches government formation.
- Fianna Fáil has not changed its long-standing view on Sinn Féin, its associations, its structures or the paucity of its policies
- Fianna Fáil recognises that the agenda for change which we put forward was not accepted by the voters and they have signalled through their support for Sinn Féin, Greens and others that the changes they want delivered on health and housing are profound.
- The support shown for the Green party is also a clear message that voters want more action on climate change than was contained in the Fianna Fáil manifesto.
- Fianna Fáil hears very clearly that voters want more action on housing health and climate change, and we recognise that policies to promote these changes must be enacted now. Fianna Fáil will do what is necessary to facilitate these changes within the limits of our issues as set out in point 1.
- Options including the formation of a two-year national unity government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael Sinn Fein, and the Green party merit active discussion and consideration.
- We firmly believe that all binary options of Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael, Fine Gael/Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil/Sinn Féin or even a Fianna Fáil/Green minority are not viable.
- While we would have considerable policy difficulties with a left wing alliance of SF/Greens/Labour/SocDems/S-PBP and others, we would be willing to see the degree to which we could support any specific actions on housing, rental accommodation and health that such an alliance could produce.
Fianna Fáil will approach all discussions with all other parties on the formation of a government in the 33rd Dáil on the basis of these 7 principles.