As you are aware, it has been some weeks since you the Irish people elected the 32nd Dail. In that time, with the existing government clearly rejected but with no obvious alternative government endorsed, it has proven very difficult to form a new and stable government to do the people’s work and ensure that the recovery experienced in some parts of the country is now spread out nationwide.
Towards that goal, I’d like to take this opportunity to explain to you the options I believe that we as a country face.
The first option is a coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. This would be a partnership of equals, with equal seats and the rotating of the office of Taoiseach and Tanaiste. In addition, it would be my intention to introduce a system whereby, as in the North of Ireland, the deputy has access to all the papers and decisions of the Taoiseach before they are made. I have no doubt that both parties could agree a worthwhile and ambitious programme of work for the next five years.
If coalition is not an option for Fianna Fail, we should consider minority support by Fianna Fail from outside the government. As part of that, and in return for a guarantee of fixed support for five years, we would agree a programme of legislation and a liaison committee so that Fianna Fail can play a part in every major decision the government makes and share in the responsibility of those decisions. I would stress, however, that such a government would need a clear and fixed period of support from Fianna Fail to be viable, and that there should be a formal written agreement as such.
Finally, if neither of those options suit Fianna Fail, then I shall have no choice but to advise the president that he should dissolve the Dail and call fresh elections.
I sincerely hope Fianna fail can see their way to finding agreement with us. This country faces serious challenges and needs a stable government, and I believe our two parties can deliver that government.
Remember, if the UK votes to leave the European Union in June’s Brexit referendum there will be no Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, only Ireland. I have no doubt that Micheal Martin and I can step into the European Council as one with the same goal, to do what’s best for our country. Despite our political differences, I have no doubt as to the patriotism of Michael or his party.
Let me also stress that my position as Taoiseach should not be seen as an obstacle for the formation of a stable government. I have been honoured to have served as your Taoiseach for the last five years. But I am also aware that no one man is more important than this office, and if my replacement is the price of five years of stable government than so be it. The country comes first.
Finally, let us not forget that 100 years ago future members of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael did serve together in the first provisional governments. De Valera, Collins, Lemass and Cosgrave fought together and achieved the almost impossible, defeating the British Empire and creating a free nation. We then fought a bloody and pointless civil war that scars our politics even today.
It’s time. The country comes first. Great sacrifices were made in 2016. Asking Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to make mere political sacrifices today in 2016 is but a very minor thing in the shadows of those great men and women.