Will Irish Labour take lessons from the British experience of coalition?

The Guardian’s Wintour and Watt blog warns the Irish Labour party of the risks of taking the Clegg coalition route.  Yet it’s still hard to believe that the coalition dance in Dublin is much more than a ritual.  Comparisons partly depend on your outlook. Pro- Labour opinion in Britain likes to think that the Lib Dems are doomed already and warn Irish Labour against a similar fate. Gilmore’s Labour will know all too well that no Fine Gael  led ( correction)  coalition has ever been re-elected.  And this time the stakes have never been higher.

One notable difference between the British and Irish approach seems clear already. Eamonn Gilmore and co are dead against imposing  third level tuition fees. The storm over the Lib Dem broken pledge makes it impossible for them to back down. Labour negotiator  Brendan Howlin creates the impression of Labour standing firm.  Can the deal be sealed by the weekend?

Labour’s talks with Fine Gael would be “profound and stark”. Fine Gael has set more onerous targets for reducing the national debt (a €9 billion adjustment by 2014, at which time the target of 3 per cent is reached) and has also said that there should be a ratio of about 2½ to 1 between cuts and expenditure.

However, neither party has identified any of those positions as red-line issues, over which they would not compromise.

The only issues publicly identified as “red-line” by Labour are in relation to child benefit and third-level fees.

Fintan O’Toole is looking for a different kind of stability from the one that appears to be on offer.

THERE IS overwhelming agreement that the most important outcome of the election is a stable government. When there’s overwhelming agreement about anything in Irish politics, it is usually wrong.

Time will soon tell whether his version of the “ democratic revolution”  lies beyond the terms  of mainstream political debate or will  be proved  to be the one that got away.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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