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Alban Maginness

Why Fianna Fail and Fine Gael must form a coalition to help rebuild economy in the Republic

Alban Maginness

The two parties working together would be in the national interest given the daunting challenges they would face, says Alban Maginness


Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar

Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin

Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin

Getty Images

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar

As we continue to impatiently endure the strict social distancing safeguards imposed upon us, we optimistically anticipate the end of this period of massive shutdown occurring within a two- or three-month timeframe. Hopefully that will happen, but one thing is certain: when that does happen, things will not go back to what we considered normal either here, the Republic or in Britain.

The economic impact on our local economy will be very serious and rebuilding, if that be possible, will require a huge effort. The old ways of doing things here through the battlefield of narrow sectarian politics, just will not do anymore. They will become obsolete in dealing with the aftermath of coronavirus.

This pandemic is the greatest challenge to capitalism and the world order since the Second World War. The devastation that it has caused practically overnight, has shaken capitalism and the world order to its core.

The phenomenon of globalisation, which is the extraordinary and dominant outworking of transnational capitalism has reached its zenith and possibly now its collapse as well.

The nations of the world must therefore cooperate to create a new world order that will provide stability, security and international economic recovery. A big ask, but unlikely to be achieved as the drawbridges of each nation state will be pulled up to protect their respective inhabitants.

Last week, no less a person than Henry Kissinger (now 96), former US Secretary of State and the eminence grise of America's imperialistic foreign policy, declared that it is now imperative that the world's leaders, even as they deal with the current pandemic, begin to make the transition to the post coronavirus order. The immediate task was to struggle to heal the wounds to the world economy. Failure to do so would set the world on fire.

He further warned that: "The economic upheaval could last for generations."

Understandably, while we now see Covid-19 as a health crisis, the reality is that this crisis is an all consuming social, economic and political crisis of gargantuan proportions. We need to realise that and prepare for a very difficult time ahead.

Therefore in Dublin last week it was heartening to note that a significant step forward in this general direction was taken by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail towards the formation of an historic, grand coalition government of both parties. These are the political descendants of both sides of the cruel and fratricidal Irish civil war fought almost 100 years ago.

While the political divisions arising out of that traumatic event have healed, there still remains a tribal rivalry and bitterness that too often marks the division between the two parties, who have ruled the south for the last century.

There are no serious ideological differences that could justify them not joining together in the current demanding political and economic circumstances. Both parties are strongly pro-European and fundamentally centrist parties, varying their policies to the right or the left, depending on the issue.

It is clearly in the national interest for a grand coalition to be formed and is the patriotic thing for politicians to do. It will also be the ultimate act of national reconciliation and healing, that will lay that terrible civil war completely to rest.

The combined talents of both parties is what is required for addressing the wide range of challenges in the post Covid-19 era. It will be a daunting task for both Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar, to navigate through this coming nightmare.

The Republic's economy is highly vulnerable and over-exposed to the vagaries of international capitalism and therefore needs a stable government to get it through the next five turbulent years. Without a stable government the situation will become much worse.

This new coalition may well be doomed to become a kamikaze administration, given the immense range of serious challenges that it will have to face. And any new government will have little room to do much, but to protect the economy from going bust and preserve as best as possible the public services.

The situation could ultimately be so bad that even Sinn Fein, who are sulking on the sidelines at being excluded from government, may quietly be thankful for being left out.

Therefore a grand coalition seems tantalisingly close, but is still dependent on the support of smaller parties such as the Greens, the Labour party and the Social Democrats.

Those parties will be invited to join the new government, but may decline, because they see it as a poisoned chalice. However that would be an irresponsible position for them to adopt at a time of grave national emergency. If the joint programme for government drafted by Fianna Fail/Fine Gael chimes with their own aspirations, then they must surely join for the common good.

Belfast Telegraph