Leinster House’s deadly slow choreography aimed at giving the 32nd Dail a meaningful narrative?

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.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • the rich get richer

    People that have got a job and don’t want to get on with it should be asked to “Emigrate” so that others that would want to do the job can take the opportunity.

  • the rich get richer

    40 days and 40 nights……..but still getting Paid and Expenced .

  • kensei

    FG is walking into a an arrangement where they are going to be responsible for all of the difficult decisions over the next few years, and allow FF to withdraw support at the time of their choosing. Maybe they think that the economy will pick up to an extent where a snap election where they improve their position becomes plausible, but balance of probabilities look to be firmly on the downside.

    This seems like strategic madness, they should force FF to shoulder some of the cost of the decisions or go back to the country. But I guess the next coupe of years will tell.

  • Zig70

    Considering all the things that SF have done in Ireland’s name, I fail to see how entering a government with FF and keeping the Tories out is a bridge too far. It’s a non starter. It’s either a grand coalition or another election. Minority government will just be a bitching session.

  • Barneyt

    Whatever happens in the short term, its going to get messy. With so many independents holding the balance of power, I see a rapid enough disintegration. Did they not try to set up their own alliance? That does not bode well as collectivelt they may not present a voice of indepedent unity. A disparate bunch

    The natural coalition using the numbers game and a will to have a stable government is FFFG….and the party with the biggest number of TD would naturally expect to hold the top position. That would be logical given the minimal differences between the parties.

    They presumably know this would thrust SF in the opposition limelight. Is the possibility of this occurring a destructive factor?

    If the ROI is not going to get a proper coalition, then the election coffers need to be raided. The electorate in a few months may take the view that they have given FG a kicking as they did FF (albeit a different timeframe). A fresh election may not produce the dividend that FF perhaps expects. I would expect a simular spread for FG and FF with the independents and smaller parties taking more of a hit.

  • the rich get richer

    I can’t work out if our TDs are on the Dole are on Strike or some strange combination of both .

    Anyway its nice handy Dough if you can get it .

  • kensei

    I think an SF led opposition is a convenient boogey man. But the threat of a labour led opposition and actual Right-left political split would be as scary to FF and FG.

  • Jag

    The coalescing view in Dublin is that a FG minority government will be established with support from FF in Opposition. There appear to have been nods by senior officials on both sides in that direction a fortnight ago, though the scenario hasn’t yet been sold to the grass roots.

    But, will FG be that thick? Their star was waning in #GE16 and FF is just waiting for the first banana skin and they’ll bring the government down. Look at the 44 FFers, most of them are career politicians who won’t be sitting in Opposition, supporting FGers and accepting measly £70k salaries for long, without real power that you only have in government.

    So, we may have a FG minority government (possibly as late as June) but can’t see it lasting more than 6 months.

  • Barneyt

    Surely you dont see Labour heading up an opposition with 7 TDs? Presumably you mean, after another election and a different result for labour. Interesting though. Why would they fear the left V right? Would it logically place FG and FF on different sides of effectively, the same conservative party?

  • handelaar

    “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. ”

    When will you finally understand that this is precisely why it’s necessary?