As I write our country finds itself in a post General Election 2016 confusion with no clear path to finding a stable government. There were no clear winners, but there were a considerable number of high profile losers from the outgoing government. The election results show no one party having a commanding majority or the possibility of renewing any previous coalition partnerships. In fact, this election has seen an unprecedented number of Independent candidates elected. Much is now being said about a coalition of the two main parties; Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
However, with longstanding and deep seated historic rather than policy differences between these two parties, it is difficult to see how such a coalition could be forged. And should such a government come into being, it would see a left-wing opposition being led by Sinn Fein for the first time. This would, of course, suit Sinn Fein on at least three fronts. First, it would be a major promotion within the political system in this part of Ireland. Second, they would have the opportunity to criticise all government decisions without having to make any of the difficult decision of government themselves and third, it would provide the golden opportunity of dramatically increasing their number of seats in any future elections. Another possibility might be the forming of a minority government by Fine Gael with the support of Fianna Fail on an issue by issue basis. This system already works in some European countries, although without the vagaries of a proportional representation voting system. The fears of this in an Irish context are that it might provide a perceived unfair advantage to the non-government partner of such an arrangement. The leaders of all the main parties have publically stated that what is required now is not party political advantage but the overall good of the country. This is undoubtedly true but any decisions made will very likely be weighed against the backdrop of the ousting of a government which turned the country’s fortunes around and brought it back from the edge of economic ruin.
Politics can often be a very cruel and precarious occupation with rapidly shifting loyalties and little gratitude. Those who put themselves forward as public representatives offer themselves as servants of the people they represent. This is essentially a Christian concept as all of us are called by Baptism to be servants to each other. We are called to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. (Luke 6:27) And as we progress through this season of Lent, we are encouraged to examine our individual and corporate identity as Church to ensure that we reflect the teachings and life of Christ in all that we do. As we focus on the period from Palm Sunday to Good Friday (Holy Week), we will see Christ’s triumphant entry in Jerusalem, hailed by the large crowd right through to his total isolation and desertion after his arrest on Holy Thursday when his disciples left him. Even Peter denied him three times. Finally, after being tortured, Jesus was taken outside the city and put to death by the most excruciatingly cruel method known to humankind, by crucifixion. All seemed totally lost. However, if the story finished there, there would be no Church and no Gospel. Instead, on that first Easter Day, Jesus rose from the dead and promised to all who believed in him and followed him that they too would experience resurrection to eternal life. That is our Christian hope and the very pillar of our Easter faith. It is what defines us from all other world religions. So as we prepare to celebrate again the season of Easter, may we do so with the joy and hope which lies at the very foundation of our faith.
With every blessing, John.
Rev’d John Tanner, Rector.
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