The failure by the two main parties to acknowledge that the election gave no political party a mandate to govern but instead the electorate decided that we all need to work together is very disappointing.
The level of anger and distrust shown by them over the last 4 days by both of them is not conducive to agreeing a constructive structure for what will be a very challenging financial environment for a minority.
From our review of the public finances and discussions with the parties, it is clear that many people are not anxious to be in Government for the next two budgets but would be quite happy to take over the running of the country in 2019 when public funds become available.
Seventy hours of talks were dismissed in a single 10 minute meeting, showing little respect to the Irish people or the independent TDs and smaller parties who participated in such talks.
From the outset my colleagues & I have engaged in talks on the basis of putting a Government in place for a five year term, not for five weeks or five months.
We have reiterated that we need to see significant detail agreed from both of the proposers of minority Governments, namely Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, on how such a minority government will work; how it will make decisions; how it will resolve unforeseen divergent positions on both sides of the Dáil; how it will pass a budget and how it will have an effective majority on the floor of Dáil Éireann on key policy issues. This is something we have referred to as a Political Partnership Agreement.
To date we still have not got agreement between the two parties that they will even respect a majority vote of the members of Dáil Éireann for a candidate for Taoiseach.
We also need to see the compromise between the two parties on Irish Water and water charges; on the phasing out of the USC; an agreement on the actual ‘fiscal space’ available for the next five budgets and the breakdown between spending on public services and taxation.
The public was told during the election that Independents were irresponsible, yet my colleagues and I took significant political risks to enter face to face talks without any pre-conditions while it took 40 days for the two main players to sit down together. We expected, at a very minimum, that they would have ensured that whatever government is formed had an effective working majority on the floor of Dáil Éireann to implement an agreed work programme.
I made it crystal clear in Dáil Éireann last Wednesday that I expect to see real and meaningful progress over the next week.
Until we see this, and until we have clear unambiguous answers to the questions raised above, then it is pointless engaging in any further talks with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.
People want, and need, a stable government and the onus is on the two main parties to ensure that the people of this country have the stability they deserve in order that the very real crises which exist at present can be dealt with.
Those who don’t know where they and their children will be sleeping next week or those who don’t know whether they will be spending another night on a hospital trolley don’t care about the politics of forming a government they want to see real action taken, to see that we as politicians are serious about forming a government that will have the ability to deal effectively with these issues.
As far as I’m concerned this is very much a last chance – it is time to stand up and do the job they were elected to do. Put the people & the country before party politics.