Deal-making drags on under the eye of a great wit
Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30
'In Ireland, the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs." Those are the potentially prophetic words of John Pentland Mahaffy, who is now 'overseeing' the talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
A snob with a good heart, who was the High Sherriff of Monaghan and one of Dublin's greatest wits, Mahaffy may prove an unexpected inspiration for the parties.
Oscar Wilde considered him his first and greatest teacher, while Oliver St John Gogarty was another of his protégés. It would be interesting to know what he makes of Leo Varadkar and Barry Cowen as they sit below his grand portrait in the Provost's House at Trinity College.
The negotiating teams from the two big parties decamped from Government Buildings yesterday to No. 1, Grafton Street, where they hope to avoid the prying eyes of the media and - perhaps more significantly - their fellow TDs.
Getting work done in Leinster House can sometimes be a hazardous task - especially when you are at the centre of the latest news cycle.
A simple trip to the bathroom can result in several lengthy conversations with journalists and other politicians who lurk in the corridors.
So in these days of media blackouts and "trust-building" negotiations, it's no surprise that a new venue was found.
The two teams have been given the Provost's private library, which has a table for 16 and plenty of room for advisors. Two separate breakout rooms have been assigned and the food is being ordered in.
Sources last night suggested that the change of scenery has given the talks a new sense of vigour.
And while that might be true, it doesn't change the fact that the machinations on the outside are still troublesome.
The Independents continue to wrestle with their consciences and, more bizarrely, the Labour Party stepped briefly onto the pitch before quickly appearing to feign an injury.
Sources within Fine Gael say the acting Taoiseach was "very fond" of the idea of another Labour coalition because, despite his sometimes awkward relationship with Joan Burton, she has proven herself to be loyal.
Instead, Mr Kenny is going back to an angry bunch of Independents who are starting to feel disrespected.
They dispute claims by Fine Gael sources that they arrived into Government Buildings with shopping lists that would cost billions.
Tensions are still high and the final deal that will see a new Cabinet appointed is far from done - but we are getting there slowly.
Mahaffy, who was Provost of Trinity during the 1916 Rising, wrote in his book 'The Principles of the Art of Conversation' that of all "prized accomplishments in society, that of being agreeable in conversation is the very first".
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are finally reaching that point, but nothing is inevitable.