18 March 2011

A new government

The Church of Ireland Gazette carries the following editorial on page 2 today [Friday 18 March 2011]:

A new government

Enda Kenny’s government has got off to a good start, but the future is still uncertain. The first test was passed with blinding success when his election as Taoiseach commanded one of the most overpowering majorities ever seen in a Dáil vote. The size of this vote gave him the confidence he needed in his first encounter with other EU leaders at last weekend’s summit in Brussels.

The voters demanded change. But already they may be wondering whether they have brought about true change. The make-up of the cabinet has left women unhappy about the prospects of breaking through the glass ceiling and moving towards gender balance. The average age of cabinet ministers has left some wondering whether they are going to get not just more of the same, but more of the same old same. And many Labour supporters – skeptical about going into coalition rather than taking up the opportunity to become the main opposition party – must be wondering if the treatment of Joan Burton in the shaping of the new cabinet indicates that Labour’s voice is not going to be as strong as any rumblings from the Fine Gael backbenches.

The electorate is unlikely to give this new government a long honeymoon period. They expect results, and they may be too impatient in their expectations. But the Kenny government faces difficult problems and severe challenges that cannot be solved or answered immediately – perhaps not even in one five-year term.

Realism, however, must remind us that this government has little room for manoeuvre. The legacy it has inherited in the economy and in the banking world is nothing less than dismal – and there is little sympathy for this plight among other European governments.

The immediate concern for many members of the Church of Ireland may well be hospitals and the school sector.

But this government holds out the hope of making decisions on impartial and equitable grounds. The hope must be that in their approach not only to health care and education, but in areas such as welfare and employment, the new ministers will be guided, in the words of the Litany, by “grace, wisdom and understanding”, and that “they may uphold justice in honesty and truth”.

If there are any regrets then they are that the consequences of poor government by Fianna Fáil have now left the Dáil without an opposition strong enough to keep the new cabinet on its toes, and that Sinn Féin’s new strength gives it a credibility it has not yet earned. On the other hand, the Kenny government knows it must keep its eyes on the ball too – otherwise the voters will be no more forgiving in five years’ time than they have been this year.

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