Tuesday 27 September 2016

Kevin Doyle: Political corpses rise together for a zombie coalition

Published 18/04/2016 | 02:30

Niall McEneaney and Anthony Greene holding the Tricolour, and Emma Murphy leading Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin and party members at the 1916 commemoration at Arbour Hill yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Niall McEneaney and Anthony Greene holding the Tricolour, and Emma Murphy leading Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin and party members at the 1916 commemoration at Arbour Hill yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Bertie Ahern attends the Éamon de Valera Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart before the commemoration. Photos: Damien Eagers. Photo: Damien Eagers

In a few weeks time, when all the bravado is pushed aside, the wounds licked and the numbers rechecked, we could actually end up back where we started.

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It seems nobody won the election, but nobody lost the election either.

The majority of those who ran for government don't actually want to govern - and those whom the people voted out are the only ones bold enough or daft enough to actually take up the mantle.

Let's take a quick recap of what has happened over the past seven weeks.

In the initial aftermath of February 26, a variety of newspapers ran headlines proclaiming an "earthquake election".

The Coalition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, got a drubbing. Fianna Fáil was back with a vengeance and a whole host of minor parties and Independents got a mandate for mischief.

It took days for all sides to dust themselves down and think about how a government might be formed.

Eventually, after the Dáil failed to elect a Taoiseach, Fine Gael woke up from its stress-induced coma and set about courting Independents and smaller parties.

Fianna Fáil did likewise, although many of those involved in talks are still sceptical about whether Micheál Martin was really looking for partners or just going through the motions.

Back and forth they went, until finally Mr Martin and Enda Kenny engaged with each other. Who phoned who is irrelevant at this stage.

Mr Kenny called the Fianna Fáil leader's bluff by offering him the keys to Government Buildings as part of a timeshare deal.

Mr Martin ran for the hills with his newly elected TDs in tow - and ultimately accepted that Mr Kenny will be re-elected Taoiseach if he is able to cobble together a minority government.

Fine Gael is having more problems doing that than it likes to publicly admit. The Independents have submitted more than 100 spending demands and around 50 tax-cutting initiatives, not to mention the fact that they want five Cabinet positions.

Now it has emerged that acting Tánaiste Joan Burton could ride to Mr Kenny's rescue if a minority government cannot be formed. At least some of the Labour Party's seven TDs believe they have a better chance of remaining relevant if they are in government rather than sitting on the Opposition benches - with Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats, AAA-PBP, et al.

You have to give them some credit for realising the country needs a government sooner rather than later - unlike Sinn Féin, whose 23 TDs say they haven't got the numbers to make a difference.

But surely this isn't how democracy was meant to function? The electorate not only voted out the last government, they scorched the earth on which it walked.

Now after more than 50 days of wrangling, Fianna Fáil has decided that it can't change the government - so it will change its attitude to the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, and will facilitate Enda Kenny and Joan Burton, the political corpses of GE16, forming a zombie government.

That earthquake is now being rapidly downgraded to a few claps of thunder.

Irish Independent

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