A government in Ireland is unlikely to be formed in time for the annual St Patrick’s Day meeting of Irish premier and US president in Washington DC, with the Republic’s election on course to produce a hung parliament. Fine Gael, the main party in the outgoing coalition, is set to lose up to 20 seats as voters wreaked revenge on its coalition government with Labour that brought in austerity measures. Ireland has been fighting to plug the gap in the nation’s finances and meet the demands of the International Monetary Fund, which had bailed it out from bankruptcy. Its economy has the current highest growth rate in the EU (7%) and falling unemployment. Former Labour leader and ex-deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, said his party’s disastrous performance – down from 33 seats in the 2011 election to under 10 – was a result of it being prepared to take hard decisions during its time in office.
Gilmore said the coalition’s troubles “started in 2011 when Fine Gael and Labour formed a government together and had to do very many unpopular things.
“I think most people try to make decisions and get elected at the same time. But there are occasions when you have to make the choice between doing the right thing and the popular thing. Our country was broke … We knew we had to take a risk,” said the former Tánaiste.
“The country was facing an existential crisis at that time. It had to be fixed and it was. We could have ended up with a second bailout. We could have faced a situation like Greece,” he said.