John Drennan

Thursday 24 July 2014

What the public wants, the public could get in a coalition of SF/Ind

It is not beyond the realms of possibility for this alliance to actually work

John Drennan

Published 06/04/2014|02:30

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Mike Wallace, left, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Clare Daly.

SOMETIMES more figures than politicians avert their eyes from the elephant in a pink tutu dancing across the table in the room.

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This certainly appears to be the case when it comes to the recent opinion polls where all the talk is of whether Fianna Fail might coalesce with Fine Gael or Sinn Fein or whether Enda might be capable of making the great leap in civilising Sinn Fein in the way Queen Victoria sorted out the savage colonies.

Intriguingly, the one reality that was ignored is that when it comes to our alienated electorate, the most popular coalition option is the Sinn Fein/Independent alternative.

This, instead, is simply seen as a form of political madness that is promptly quarantined from discussion lest the notion spread.

The problem though is that the electorate have developed a bit of a Sinn Fein, Independent habit over a consistent period of time now.

On one level, we should not be too surprised by the scale of the shift, because the Prodigal Sons of Fine Gael and Labour have thoroughly squandered their political capital on pointless fripperies like Shatter.

As the little boy blues of the Reform Alliance snooze away while the SF/Independent Alliance trample through the political corn, a strangely gun-shy Fianna Fail increasingly brings to mind the individual in the parable of the talents who buried his money.

It is still more than likely the Sinn Fein/Independent rise will follow the bumpy path of that Gilmore gale that ran out of puff at the very gates of government.

Our establishment notes that such a disparate grouping could never form a stable government for unlike the current loving FG/Labour union, an Independent/Sinn Fein Alliance would contain too many disparate working parties for the thing to succeed.

That, however, underestimates the Sinn Fein capacity as a party that is as free as Labour of ideology to go down a bit of the road with anyone.

Nothing epitomises this and future possibilities more than the entente cordiale that has developed between Mary Lou and the somewhat less than left-wing Shane Ross in the PAC.

Of course, the clinching matter, which is supposed to send Middle Ireland running back to the familiar Fine Gael and Fianna Fail nurses, is who you would put into the cabinet of this government of all the ideologues, led by Taoiseach Gerry Adams.

However, would such a Sinn Fein/Independent Alliance cabinet consist of the political equivalent of Yogic Flying Monster Raving Lunatics?

And, more critically still, would Adams have to be the Taoiseach of such a motley crew?

Given that Adams is surrounded by shades such as the continuing unresolved issue of the death of Jean McConville, Taoiseach Gerry would not be the prettiest of sights.

But, it need not be this way, for if Gerry were to follow the precedent of 1951, where the Fine Gael leader General Richard Mulcahy stepped aside from the Taoiseach's office because of some civil war 'bother', we would be very close to being in business.

That is not to say Gerry couldn't be in the cabinet, but, something like Foreign Affairs where he would be kept out of the country (a lot) would mean that Adams could do the same job as Enda minus the title. The disappearance of Gerry Adams would have the added benefit of freeing the Taoiseach's office for his designated media successor, Mary Lou McDonald.

We hope a woman Taoiseach would not be too distressing for the political system but like Mary Harney in another era, the SF Super-quinn Mum is increasingly the sole politician in whom the Irish public have confidence.

The role of perception in politics means that the Simon Coveney of Sinn Fein, otherwise known as Pearse Doherty, would not frighten too many bondholders were he to become Minister for Finance.

Sinn Fein might, beyond this Troika, be a bit short on the sweetness, intellect and light front, but there is no shortage of Independent TDs who have the capacity to be impressive ministers.

It is difficult to see how any cabinet with an innovative thinker like Stephen Donnelly in Education or the plain-speaking, honest-dealing John Halligan in Social Welfare or Labour's lost Noel Browne, – Roisin Shortall – in Health could be seen as a threat to society as we now know it.

It might be a bit of a case of poacher turned gamekeeper, but the performance of Shane Ross in the PAC suggests if he didn't start a national strike, Ross would be a perfect fit in Brendan Howlin's Public Sector Reform gig.

Those who would wish to stir a bout of national hysteria at the prospect of a Sinn Fein Independent government still retain the trump cards of Mick Wallace, Clare Daly and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan.

Before we faint too swiftly at the mention of such a Troika, it might be mentioned that the self-same terrible threesome played the key role in kicking over the stone that set a lot of earwigs running into the sunlight when it came to the penalty points debacle.

Some might argue that worse things could happen in this world than to put the forthright and increasingly considered Clare Daly into Justice.

It would, of course, be argued that giving Mick Wallace a cabinet post would represent an even greater example of the politics of poacher turned gamekeeper.

But, while that representative of the ragged trousered working men, Mick Wallace, offends the ascetic sensitivities of us all, no one in the present Cabinet has created more jobs in the real living world of SMEs than Mick.

Though the likely response of the IFA alone means we are tempted to make Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Minister for Agriculture, even if the Revolution comes, we suspect Ming is a half-step too far.

Instead, given its economic importance, that post would be best reserved for the sometimes Independent/sometimes Sinn Fein TD Peadar Tobin.

It would, of course, be a great help if in putting together such a cabinet, we had the Reform Alliance but one supposes the union of the two RAs would be a step too far.

Still when it comes to the remaining cabinet posts, the considered Catherine Murphy would also be well capable of dealing with the Transport ministry whilst the energetic Padraig MacLochlainn, whose other qualities are more enigmatic, could be worth a punt in the Department of Children.

Richard Boyd Barrett represents a similar choice for Communications for he is at least good at talking, while Martin 'the Gunrunner' Ferris just makes it in to Arts and Sport ahead of Sandra McLellan on the basis that it would not be nice for Gerry to be too lonely in cabinet.

Intriguingly, our greatest difficulty lies in Environment unless the new coalition takes a walk on the wild side, heads for the Seanad and picks out a fearless reformer such as Sean Barrett who doesn't spend every night praying for the retention of his Dail seat.

When it comes to a public who exist in a very different world to the rarefied Tom Brown's Schooldays atmosphere of Leinster House, the rough truth of things is that the more one looks at such a Sinn Fein-Independent cabinet, the more appealing it appears.

Cold reality still suggests that such a union would be impossible for we are surely not ready for the possibility that a retired IRA Chief of Staff would serve in cabinet.

Oh, wait actually, the same thing was said in 1951 when Sean MacBride went into coalition with the Blueshirts.

Sunday Independent

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