Saturday 3 December 2016

Fine Gael TDs have to grin and bear it while Fianna Fáil just enjoy the party

Published 04/03/2016 | 02:30

Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey, Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone and Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan outside the Dáil yesterday. Photo: Douglas O’Connor
Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey, Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone and Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan outside the Dáil yesterday. Photo: Douglas O’Connor
Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Newly elected Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O’Loughlin. Photo: Tom Burke
Rubbish bags of shredded paper belonging to Labour lie in a corridor

That's the beauty of a big venue - plenty of room to accommodate both a wedding and a wake, with sweeping grounds and a stylish Georgian backdrop for the photographs capturing the occasion.

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Not that Fine Gael are likely to treasure their snaps - what with Enda Kenny clenching and unclenching his fists repeatedly in the foreground. Regardless of the painfully constructed carefree smile on his face.

But for Fianna Fáil, it was certainly one for the family album. They're back, baby. Michael McGrath was almost emotional as he gushed over how 'heartwarming' it was to be back in a full room again.

The eco-bubble that is Leinster House had it all.

The soaring heights to the sinking miseries. The thrills of the young, new TDs going in, all excited, in rig-outs bought specially for the occasion - to the painful spills of Labour's rubbish bags full of shredded papers lying, forlorn, in the corridors.

"Jubilant to the point of triumphalism," was the unofficial verdict coming out of Fianna Fáil's first parliamentary party meeting, post-election.

Or, more accurately, their first party, post-election 2011.

If you listened very carefully, you could almost hear the sound of Champagne corks popping and the shrill unfurling of party blowers.

Reassuring, too, how five years of locusts and wild honey have done nothing to alter their fundamental DNA.

And we can only assume that Fine Gael had put their own Champagne back in the cellar, so grim was the atmosphere amongst veterans as they arrived.

Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle darkly suggested that he expected the meeting to be "heated" and that "the good, the bad and the ugly" would be discussed.

You'd think the chaos might look slightly more reassuring, less messy, the closer up you got.

But standing on the plinth of Leinster House, it's clear the situation is even stickier.

Even most of the bright-eyed and bushy tailed new TDs were regrettably cagey, much preferring to be photographed rather than to actually speak. And so many people spoke of "red line issues" that we fully expected to see the Russian cavalry galloping on the horizon.

But it was only Charlie Flanagan, stony-faced as he stalked out the Dáil gates, avoiding questions in so far as he could.

With both major parties claiming a "strong mandate" but still clearly allergic to the idea of actually going into coalition with one another, it looks like we might be here for awhile.

A miracle would also come in handy.

Michael Noonan, for one, expects an election within two years. Fine Gael's Eoghan Murphy, too, was putting the wind up, even so far as to hint at the party taking the drastic step of going into opposition.

"We need to talk about what we can do to form a government. If we can," he stressed.

"Some people are talking about, maybe, given the results, that perhaps we should go into opposition.

"But we are the largest party and I think we have a responsibility to form a government. If we can.

"It can't be government at all costs. You know?

"It has to be responsible and it has to be in the best interests of the people."

The only one who seemed to think a grand coalition was a no-brainer was the pragmatic senator David Norris: "They're the same party," he pointed out impatiently.

But he thinks that while Enda Kenny is a "decent man", he might have to go.

"He lost it during the election," he said, with pity. "The fiscal space was a disaster and ... you do not attack your audience," he added.

"I don't think he'll last, no, I don't think he'll last.

"But in his own way, he has done the country some service."

If Enda's goose is cooked, you would hardly tell it by the family photograph.

But afterwards, we all wondered where were Leo and Simon standing - because it wasn't beside Enda.

Irish Independent

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