Dáil up in the air as Martin takes reform road

The Dáil awaits its members, new ones and returning ones.

By Evan Short

The prospect of Ireland being without an agreed government until after Easter has been raised with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin proposing a period of negotiation focused on Dáil reform.

Deputy Martin, whose resurgent party is now within ten seats of Fine Gael and will be the second largest party in the new Dáil, said he wouldn’t propose forming a new government.

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“In this election Fianna Fáil has won a substantial mandate for its program. We secured the largest increase in first preference votes and seats of any party,” Martin said.

“However, we also acknowledge that every one of the 158 members of the new Dáil carry their own mandate which should be respected.

“We believe that the new Dáil should not represent more business as usual, that it should involve a decisive move towards a reformed politics. This should be addressed immediately, and before the process of forming a new government is proceeded with.

“The next government should take up office subject to a reformed Dáil rather than leaving reform in the hands of that government.”

Pundits have predicted that because of seat tallies (FG 49, FF 44, SF 23, Lab 6 and independents/others 34 at the time of writing) the only stable government possible is a Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil link up.

However, for that to happen almost a hundred years of antipathy arising from the civil war would have to be put to bed, a development that is more popular in urban areas than in the countryside.

Any link up with Sinn Féin has been ruled out by Martin’s party.

It is expected that Sinn Féin will hope to be the largest opposition party and continue to build their support after an election which saw them increase their vote tally by over 50 percent and secure 23 seats by today with two Dáil seats left to be filled.

Labour, who propped up the last government, are facing into the new Dáil with just six of perhaps seven seats - down from 37 - but it’s unlikely they will agree to join in another government administration.

With counting still going on in one constituency the final make-up of the Dáil has yet to be finalized, but it is unlikely to be business as usual for the foreseeable future.