There’s some people on the pitch: #GE11 stoppage time.

With all seats filled, and, a recount in Galway West apart, the composition of the 31st Dáil is clear. Sort of.

Basically, Fine Gael’s 76 and Labour’s 37 TDs make up a comfortable 113 governing coalition. Except that in the last 24 hours I’ve heard both sides moan about the difficulty of spreading the limited number of ministrys among their own TDs (geographically) nevermind between the two governing partners. With fifteen or so ministers plus up to ten junior ministers, whips and a new Ceann Comhairle, there will be close to 90 relatively under-used government TDs. Such a large government may be hard to keep in check.

The alternatives for Fine Gael are limited. Only around four reliably centre-right independents were returned, plus two Fianna Fáil gene-pool indos (three if you count Healy-Rae). So, if Fine Gael managed to entice all seven into supporting the government (and managed to neutralise another with the bauble of Ceann Comhairle) they would have a slim, but working majority. This, in effect, is some of the leverage Fine Gael have over Labour in the negotiating a programme for government. However, an independent-supported minority government would likely have a very limited life expectancy.

There is also the nuclear option of Fine Gael forming a coalition with Fianna  Fáil or Sinn Féin. The latter isn’t an option on the table and the former, while remote, may still be wafted under the Labour negotiating team’s noses.

There are six left of centre independents, plus two each from the Socialist Party and People Before Profit. Arguably, Flanagan and Mick Wallace also broadly fall into this category (publicly Wallace identifies himself more closely with the left). Would this group feel they have enough in common with each other, firstly, or, with the seven centre-right and FF-gene pool independents to form a technical group and attain various additional rights? The 10-12 left-leaning independents could even form such a group on their own and force the centre-right/FF independents onto parliamentary wasteground (as far as I know, and I could be wrong, only one technical group is allowed in the Dáil).

There is the further possibility that the left-leaning independents and Sinn Féin will find enough common ground to form a larger technical group and lead the Opposition. Fianna Fáil may even be ambivalent about having to act as the Opposition lead as they will be continually reminded of their role in the problems the government is trying to solve. With a front bench including Martin, Lenihan, O’Dea and another Cowen, Fine Gael and Labour would be able to deflect uncomfortable decisions onto the Opposition. This would have a certain amount of appeal to Sinn Féin and the left-leaning independents and smaller parties as they can present themselves as outsiders to a failed political process (although whether that stance can have any long term currency really depends on events).

The threat of this may provide Labour with some strength in bargaining with Fine Gael. Labour could decide that they would be overly threatened and rule against joining the government next Saturday (if they would prefer to lead a left-leaning opposition rather than being its main target). A lot depends on what Labour feels are the immediate lessons learnt from the election campaign (and it’s capacity to emerge as the largest party). If Labour says no, Fine Gael’s only real option, then, would then be to enter historic discussions with Fianna Fáil about forming a coalition.

As such, some of the most significant decisions that will effect how the 31st Dáil plays out will only be made this week.

Kind of makes you look forward to d’Hondt, no?

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  • The Word

    All party government might not be a bad idea at the moment so that no party, especially Sinn Fein, can claim that they would anything any differently to the other parties.

    We know that Sinn Fein shout a good war – “burn the bondholders” ” the cutting edge of the IRA” etc, etc, – but that when it comes to the crunch, suddenly the poor feel used, and their circumstances haven’t changed. That’s why we have the dissidents.

    A good example of how the poor were betrayed is seen in the year of chuckling between Ian and Martin. People had died but they thought it was a great laugh. And nothing had changed for the poor. Was there a penny more for those on the dole? No.

  • Drumlins Rock

    John, this is a long shot but wonder if it has been considered, a FG minority government, but with the agreement of FF to remain neural on many issues, not full coalition as the people don’t want that obviously, but it keeps the door open for them down the line to either become full coalition partners.

  • John Ó Néill

    DR, that is regarded as the Tallaght strategy option. However, it does place the survival of a FG government in the hands of FF. In the short term, perhaps it is also on the table, and Michael Martin had suggested it, but FG seem too far short of a majority to be comfortable with it.

  • Mack

    I think Shane Ross is trying to corral a group of the ‘radical’ centre. Centre-Right or Centre-Left probably have more in common with each other than the far-left..

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im not so sure.
    Fine Gael might be able to threaten Labour with a coalition with Independents but I think they would need 79 seats to make that possible. Its a bluff when they only have 76.
    FG wll try to claim that Labour “need” FG more than FG “need” Labour and with 76 try to talk down Labours share of Cabinet seats.
    Labour will try and hold out for 10:5 based on 76:37 but Labour have a problem geographically. Gilmore, Rabbitt, Quinn, Burton and Shortall are all Dublin based and Labour probably need someone down the country ( Kemmys protege O’Sullivan in Limerick or MEP Alan Kelly have the seniority or Penrose but one of the Cork Lynches (Kathleen) has Democratic Left credentials.
    Howlin has the seniority but has been Leas Ceann Comhairle and holding that bauble out guarantees him re-election in up to five years.
    So for me it would be Gilmore, Burton, Rabbitte, Quinn with either O’Sullivan or K Lynch for geographic credibility and Howlin in the chair.
    Ex Stickies will do well.

    Fianna Fáil is now led by Martin, Lenihan, Smith, O’Cuiv and O’Dea and that looks uninspiring. Historical coalition FG-FF……..just doesnt add up for me.
    Sinn Féin in government….answering Irelands call. I cant see that either. They might make half hearted efforts to join with the loony left to outnumber FF but Adams and Higgins have big egos. They “might” bring Thomas Pringle back on board as (no pun intended) Fisheries Spokesperson. But to be effective Sinn Féin needs its own identity.
    To be its usual ineffective self the loony left needs its own identity.

  • OK, can some of you guys tell me what you believe the advantages are for Labour if they Join a Fianna Gael led coalition, if there are any?

  • John Ó Néill

    “…what you believe the advantages are for Labour…”

    In the real world they will be in power which tends to be quite attractive for political parties who have been out of government for a good few years – rightly or wrongly they will believe they will get to implement some of their agenda. If you look at the front rank, many are at an age where this is close to their last hurrah.

    Beyond that – one of Fine Gael’s stated aims is to sell off non-strategic assets to fund various projects. It is hard to see how Labour can stand over it (unless Dick Spring gets another directorship). Even more obviously – the EU and IMF have first call over monies raised. In the recent past junior coalition partners have not come out of it well. Actually, neither the PDs or Greens survived the experience.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally


    You cant seriously be asking what is in it for any party to enter government?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Its remarkable how many people who dont actually vote Labour are so concerned for it in the last 48 hours.

  • Mark

    All the goodwill seems to be gone all of a sudden …..

  • Munsterview

    Drumlins : “this is a long shot but wonder if it has been considered, a FG minority government, ”

    Micheal Martin actually unilaterally posited that FF would be prepared to do just that provided FG carried on the broad trust of the ‘stability program’

  • Not Sammy

    Nice one mate.


    I find it remarkable just how brittle you seem to be on this subject, I’m guessing your Labour, if so how about moving the red mist to one side and answer my question. It is not unreasonable to ask what we can expect from Labour in government. Is it?

  • tuatha

    FG would be more compatible with FF than Labour and would impregnable.
    If Labour joins they will, inevitably, disappoint their supporters and be thrashed next time the bottle is spun.
    Personally I would prefer Labour to head a strong Opposition with SF and the left inclined Indies & others.
    FG could be a minority government and trust to the goodwill of Labour & those other TDs of sufficient probity not to move frivolous No Confidence motions but earnestly strive to provide good government.
    Northern EU countries show it is possible to negotiate for the common weal.
    To paraphrase, “I HAD a dream…”.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    What can I say. I am familiar with “Labour” politics (Ive never lived in the south by the way) and familiar with what some Labour people refer to as the loony left.
    It just strikes me as bizarre that people who wouldnt vote for Labour in a fit……get very exercised about what Labour will do.
    Indeed I am a bit exercised about it myself. If a deal is agreed (Ive not seen any TV today) will I imagine be accepted by Conference. The negotiators wont agree something that wont get past the membership.
    But mostly Im exercised by the fact that there are a handful of Labour people “in the know”. At this moment they (and their FG counterparts and chosen journalists)know the bottom lines and choreography of presenting the platform to Conference.
    If I was a footsoldier who paid by Labour subscription and knocked on doors and hoisted Burton, Quinn Gilmore and Rabbitte on my shoulders on Saturday (actually I could only just about manage Shortall) then Id be disappointed…not with the platform itself (on balance Id prefer Labour in opposition……but I have no team on the field) but with the mechanics of election/negotiation/coalition.

  • FJH

    I appreciate your reply, by the way although deeply disillusioned with the British Labour Party, when in England I have voted for them more often than not.