Saturday 22 October 2016

Fear and loathing in the Dáil as Mé Féinism becomes mainstream

Gerard O'Regan

Published 16/04/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: ‘This is rainy Ireland. We do things differently here.’ Photo: Maxwell
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: ‘This is rainy Ireland. We do things differently here.’ Photo: Maxwell

On mature reflection - and despite all the bothersome stuff we have had to endure from our politicians of late - the neither here nor there election result has been good for all of us.

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It has been a reminder of the continued presence in the Dáil of a political grouping which might be dubbed the "Mé Féin'' party. It's fair to say a good whack of the Leinster House membership over the years have been enthusiastic followers of this particular ideology.

Of course, the official affiliation of these TDs is with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, as a go-it-alone Independent, or whatever. But looking after Number One - their own best interests - is the primary motivation for much of what the Mé Féiners say and do.

Nothing too surprising about that. We are told self-interest is what drives forward the human condition. All the same, seeing it so up close and personal these last few weeks has been insightful for those who still swoon over the idea that the national interest should always trump the self one.

But before we get too high and mighty, and over-judgmental on this front, let us be a little sympathetic for a moment with our politicians. Aren't they really like all the rest of us? Trying to do good by way of a determination to improve the lot of their fellow humans is all very well. But it can only be done by getting elected and, where necessary, subsequently re-elected.

In their private moments, our politicos admit there are times when it would be political hari-kari to put the country first - if it should result in their own demise - and given that their fate is in the hands of what they see as often ungrateful and volatile voters.

And when it comes to voter ingratitude, no doubt all those outgoing TDs who were dispatched to the long grass only a matter of weeks ago would have a tale to tell about the unfairness of it all. For most politicians, there is often much hidden heartbreak following the loss of a Dáil seat. The brutality of the political business is without end.

With images of the recent clean-out from the Dáil vivid in the mind, it's no wonder that behind a veneer of bluff and bluster, all the players in the current Leinster House drama are jittery. They are nervous as hell. One wrong move - and if those voters out there have to go to the polls in the not-too-distant future - could lead to carnage. We would see more political careers cut down overnight. Who is to really say who might, or might not, lose their seat if the patience of a wayward electorate is tested too soon?

At the same time, it's all very well being told how minority governments, so-called, are conducting their business with relative sweetness and light in places like Denmark and Canada. Maybe their politicians are more polite and enlightened compared to our bunch. But this is rainy old Ireland. We do things differently here.

The Independents have had all that wrestling with their collective conscience , garnering lots of luscious publicity along the way. However, room to play the game of charades has now run its course. Following the latest bout of grandstanding in the Dáil on Thursday, a distinct note of unease hung in the air. Unless some form of deal is done, events just might gather their own momentum, and lead all concerned to another unwanted judgment day at the polls.

But some are determined to hold to their hurler-on-the-ditch approach, regardless of what happens: expounding solutions to all sorts of problems, without ever getting involved in the match.

A classic case in point this week was a television encounter involving newly elected Galway West Independent, Catherine Connolly. She seems determined to remain in the cosy world of the self-righteous, permanently comforted by the warm balm of the opposition benches.

However, the central issue which will determine much of what happens in our political world has now come centre stage.

How can Micheál Martin and his Fianna Fáil cohorts orchestrate a scenario whereby they will be able to pull the plug on this mooted Fine Gael-led set-up at a time of their choosing?

No wonder Fine Gael wants some form of written guarantee that dirty deeds will be off the agenda for a few years. Yet if, as seems likely, the mooted minority arrangement goes ahead, Fianna Fáil will be required by default to keep it in power - through good times and bad - for a given period. That's one helluva an ask.

As a sideshow, it will be intriguing to see who from the Independents will get the call to serve on the ministerial front line.

Who knows? We just might have that doughty man of the soil, Michael Fitzmaurice, bedecked in a brand new pinstripe, anointed Minister for Rural Affairs.

If so, it will be he who will be charged with charting a new dawn, for those who live on the far side of the Red Cow roundabout.

Irish Independent

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