Thursday 29 September 2016

Kevin Doyle: Water deal clears path for minority government but we're still crawling

Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Enda Kenny. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

The push is on to get Enda Kenny re-elected as Taoiseach next Wednesday - but don't bet on it just yet.

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The two weeks of discussions between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are nearly at a conclusion, which means a whole new round of talks is about to get underway.

Despite the 50-plus hours that Mr Kenny's team spent hammering through ideas with Independent TDs before he finally accepted he had to engage with Micheál Martin there is still a lot more negotiating to do.

The 'Rural Five', Independent Alliance and Maureen O'Sullivan will want their day, or perhaps days, in the limelight too.

"Ye'll get a few days of photographs out of us," one quipped when asked about the prospect of a quick deal.

Fine Gael believes there are 11 TDs still "in play", although some are viewed as long shots.

The groupings were completely side-lined by the two big parties as the wrangling over partnership government and Irish Water dominated the headlines in recent days.

And whatever tentative agreements were made prior to the past fortnight, they now know that Fine Gael is an even weaker ticket than they first anticipated.

Acting Health Minister Leo Varadkar's admission yesterday that they are willing to do something "wrong" and engage in a "ridiculous" deal in order to form a government shows the it really is power at all costs.

There is a lot of truth to what Mr Varadkar said but timing in politics means a lot.

No doubt he was speaking to Fine Gael grassroots and mostly likely he got the nod of approval from the party hierarchy before taking to the airwaves.

But by confirming the water deal was done as a result of blackmail rather than compromise he has opened up space for further demands from Independents.

The non-party TDs know the lifespan of the new Dáil will be limited and therefore they can't do deals based on fanciful promises for things that will be delivered in 2021.

They need to be able to go back to their voters and show they had influence in government and brought about tangible change.

That means detailed written guarantees with specific targets will be required.

Fianna Fáil's one-page document was being rewritten and rewritten yesterday so you can imagine how long it will take to do anywhere between six and 10 individual agreements.

Then there is the question of ministries. Sources suggest that Fine Gael will give two or three senior jobs away and a similar number of junior positions. But who gets them?

Does the Taoiseach get to decide which Independents get a seal of office or must they argue among themselves?

The effective scrapping of water charges may have cleared the path for the election of a minority government but we are still crawling towards the day when it is actually formed.

Irish Independent

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