It's a truism indeed 'a week is a long time in politics', so indeed in this case is a day, Saturday February 8th. The outcome of last week's general election has taken us all by surprise. There is undoubtedly a mood for change in our country and the voting pattern of the past has crumbled before our very eyes. The old two-party order has been broken by the arrival of a third major force in Irish Politics, Sinn Fein. Whatever our feelings about the new arrivals there's no escaping the fact that they are there with the same democratic mandate of every other elected representative and are deserving of the same respect and voice on the political stage afforded to every other party. Now that the election dust has settled the new political scene that has unfolded before us poses a challenge to all the parties, a challenge to put together a functioning government that can serve the best interests of our whole nation.
The unique situation we find ourselves in affords an opportunity to all in politics to take a long hard luck at the structures of political life in Ireland that harken back to echoes of the Civil War, and to ask whether what we face is in fact an opportunity to redraw boundaries drawn up in different times and circumstances in favour of a realignment that capitalises on shared ideals and abandons the trenches of the past. Such a realignment calls for a courageous willingness to take risks and step outside traditional tribal bounds towards a redefined future. If Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill individuals from diametrically opposed camps could forge an alliance and work together in government in Northern Ireland, surely it's not beyond our southern politicians who hold so much in common to achieve as much south of the border, in the national interest. Standing aloof from one another pronouncing anathemas does little to advance anyone's ends.
The coming weeks will see much toing and froing between politicians of every hue, and many late-night meetings out of the public eye will take place. We can only hope and pray that the end result will produce an agreement that will put the future growth and prosperity of our country on a firm footing. That last thing we need is another trip to the polling booths.
Meanwhile those on hospital trollies, on never ending waiting lists and those without a home to call their own, can only like the rest of us, wait in hope that the future will be different.
St. Mary's Lucan