The Yates Anthology: Fine Gael's silver bullet strategy
It's been a really bad 2016 so far for Fine Gael. Its seats have vaporised and now there is no clear sense of direction in the new Dáil. It urgently needs to devise a strategy that allows it to participate in a sustainable government, while simultaneously patching up the battered ship to weather the next election. It faces the grim prospect of being in office but not in power, forming a lame-duck minority administration that'll be kicked about by most TDs on the opposition benches. The party also needs a new leader's face on election posters.
Fine Gael voters want the party in government, pursuing prudent policies that will extend economic recovery wider and deeper. It risks, through indecision, being outmanoeuvred by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.
A single 'silver bullet' strategy that avoids all landmines looks like this: Fine Gael must announce, with authority, the impossibility of establishing a minority government with only 50 TDs. Without Labour, but including the smaller parties of Social Democrats, Greens and Independent Alliance, it would still be 18 short of a working Dáil majority - with only 16 Independents remaining, it means 79 is unattainable. Even if it could get elected, implementing a Programme for Government would be impossible on issues like Irish Water or GP cover for under-12s. Game over.