In the Irish Times Pat Leahy lays out what he thinks will happen in the days after what’s likely to be another choreographed failure to form a government in the Dail today.
What will be discussed is not a coalition or even a shared programme, but the terms under which Fianna Fáil might enter into a “confidence and supply” arrangement with a Fine Gael-led minority government.
Under such an arrangement, Fianna Fáil would consent to the formation of government (probably by abstaining on the vote for taoiseach) and pledge to either support it or, more likely, not to oppose it on votes of confidence or (money) supply.
The latter means basically the budget and finance and social welfare Bills.
Okay so not – under any circumstances – the grand coalition most of the LH lobby have been relentlessly pushing for then? Indeed before even such modest arrangements are arrived at I’d expect Martin to put it up the independents and SF TDs in particular to give himself and Fianna Fáil enough support to avoid a Fine Gael led minority government.
They won’t bite of course. Enda is already thought to have crossed the Independents’ palms with enough gold to buy their loyalty. As for SF’s current position, supporting Martin as Taoiseach would burn far too many of the bridges they’ve painstakingly built with disaffected former FF voting C2s Ds and Es in working class Dublin for it to be a realistic prospect.
In which case you can expect that any abstention on their part will be replayed over and over again as de facto support for Kenny and FG on the doors by a FF party machine desperate to reprofile as the leading opposition party in Dublin.
Outside Dublin the incoherence of the electorate’s overall choice is a direct result of the elevation of independents to the role of kingmakers. So pivotal a role will they play this time that it could have similar consequences for them further down the line, if and when the dam breaks on this government.
Expect some high drama in the meantime. Going to the Aras will not be a straightforward matter of arithmetic. Whoever goes to the Park will have to go without the numbers, and will be committing themselves (and their party) to one hell of a balancing act.
But then again that seems to be exactly what the Irish electorate have voted for. The desperately slow choreography here is all about framing the narrative for what comes next. No one (and I really mean no one) wants another €40 million election. But nor do any of political parties (despite all their since differences) want to continue the walk through treacle such a high proportion of independent TD increasingly imposes upon the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The drift towards incoherence and arbitrary meaninglessness is probably the bigger danger facing the Republic’s democracy. A grand coalition of the type considered inevitable by most southern commentators would more likely fuel voter ire than sate it. So getting some clarity now matters immensely, to coin a by now old familiar phrase, going forward.