Brilliant from Jason O’Mahony, on the awkward situation Fine Gael now find themselves in. If you still struggle with understanding the difference between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail (and despite all guff being written recently there definitely is one: it’s just not ideological), read this:
Someone once said to me that the problem with Fine Gael is that they’re that lethal mixture of being both arrogant and stupid. You can survive by being arrogant but clever, or by being dim but likeable, but FG manage to be neither. They seem to be the party who is always surprised to lose elections because nobody, from their tailor to their housekeeper to their stablehand ever admits to voting Fianna Fáil.
However, Jason has a cunning plan…
The key to FG’s survival is not to neuter FF’s power but to enhance it, and do so publicly. Enda should announce a weekly legislative cooperation meeting where he will publicly work with FF on which legislation goes through the house, and what it looks like.
His team should be pulling out every Fianna Fáil policy document and private members bill from the last five years and pushing what can be used, publicly identifying them as Fianna Fail’s good ideas.
He should be consulting Fianna Fáil publicly on state appointments and very publicly appointing Fianna Fáil nominees. In short, the objective of Fine Gael should be to destroy the notion that Fianna Fáil are the opposition standing up to the government, and making sure that it is clear to all that Fianna Fáil are part of the governing majority and share in its decisions.
Can they do it?
They’ll be helped by the fact that Sinn Fein will certainly want to push that line too. But it will involve FG showing humility, with the government basically refusing to give FF any ammunition to bring down the government. That’s the real challenge, because humble is not something FG does well.
Personally, I doubt FF will walk such a willing walk to the scaffold. They have prepared the ground well enough to take the credit for any near ground U-turn on signal issues like the abolition of Irish Water. Incumbency too is not always the best place to plan for a disruptive policy.
Meanwhile, if yesterday’s Arbour Hill speech by Micheal Martin is anything to go by, the real object of FF’s approach to negotiations is to broaden the effect Jason is looking for, by emphasising the fact that “no one in Dáil Éireann will be able to dominate decisions”.
Micheal’s own cunning plan is to focus squarely on the recidivist members of Opposition Anonymous and either embarrass them into making affirmative legislative decisions on their own issues or embarrass voters out of returning them to the national assembly next time out.
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