Irish Republican News · April 16, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Industrial chaos looms while coalition clings to power


After an indeterminate election and seven weeks of fruitless talks on government formation, the decimated outgoing coalition in Dublin are still clinging to power and seeking support for a second term.

In the face of mounting industrial unrest and crisis situations in housing, social welfare, healthcare and public transport, Fine Gael leader and acting prime minister Enda Kenny said he would continue to seek another term in office despite failing to be be re-elected in a third parliamentary vote on Thursday.

The Irish Constitution sets no time limit on the process to form a government following an election, although pressure is increasing on the President, Michael D. Higgins, to dissolve the Dail and trigger a second election.

Apart from his own Fine Gael colleagues, which are drastically reduced in numbers following the party’s collapse in support, Kenny can still only get the backing of two Independents. One was Offaly TD Michael Lowry, who quit Fine Gael in a giant and lingering corruption scandal, the other ex-senator Katherine Zappone, who was handed a Senate seat by Kenny five years ago.

“We are now nearly seven weeks on from the general election and it is time really to focus, with a sense of urgency, on what it is we have to do here,” Kenny said, without irony.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin suffered an even greater humiliation after failing to win the support of a single TD outside his own party for an extraordinary third time. Martin has now officially abandon his hopes of forming a minority administration, saying that in the wake of the votes “it is time to move on”.

Martin said his party was “prepared to continue in discussions with Fine Gael about the operation of a minority government”, but the Fianna Fail leader said Fine Gael would have to do “what they have so far refused to do, which is to detail who it expects to participate in such a government and state that government’s programme”.

Sinn Fein’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, denounced the failure of the two historically dominant parties to form a government as a “farce.” She said the the two parties created out of the Irish civil war in the 1920s were involved in a long drawn out domestic row over who will come out on top.

“The two big beasts of Irish politics are throwing the rattle out of the pram because you don’t have it your own way any more,” she said, referring to the new situation where one can no longer gain power without at least the tacit support of the other.=

Kenny is still seeking to gain the support of at least 6 more deputies outside his Fine Gael party, as well as Fianna Fail’s agreement to abstain in key votes.

In a significant development, his coalition partners in the Labour Party, all but wiped out in the February general election, appear ready to sign up for another coalition deal.

In a move that has already drawn condemnations from the parties of the left, Kenny is now lobbying Labour Ministers about a continuation of their outgoing coalition as a minority government. The seven Labour TDs and five Ministers are reported to be speaking to their constituency members this weekend about a possible return to government alongside Fine Gael.

It is understood party leader and acting Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton is eager to remain in office, although party colleague and Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, rumoured to be preparing a leadership challenge against Burton, is against.

The two-strong Green Party, which returned to the Dublin parliament after being entirely wiped out in 2011 over its role in the economic collapse, are also reportedly eager for party leader Eamon Ryan to return to a Ministerial position.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said his party will hold Fianna Fail to account as part of a constructive opposition if a minority government is formed “because no matter how much they want to long-arm it, they will be as much a part of that government as Fine Gael.”

He said statements on the housing crisis had only taken place in Thursday’s session of the Dail at the insistence of his party but “there are other important issues impacting on the lives of citizens that the Dail should be dealing with, including health, water charges and industrial disagreements in a number of sectors”.

Among those issues are the increasing dissatisfaction among the state’s public service workers whom are demanding an end to the two-tier pay structure introduced during the economic crisis, which has created an income difference of roughly 8,000 euro per annum between otherwise identical coworkers.

Transport workers are at the forefront of an expected tidal wave of industrial unrest. The Siptu trade union has said a shutdown of the Luas tram system in Dublin now appears “inevitable” after a decision by management to place all Luas staff on immediate protective notice.

Siptu transport sector organiser John Murphy said Luas workers are facing a lock-out by management . “Basically it is a lock out without the word,” he said. “The company are saying they will let people go. There are no winners in this situation, but the company is putting its hands into the pockets of staff because they don’t like the dispute. It is a step too far.”

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© 2016 Irish Republican News