Tuesday 25 October 2016

Nicola Anderson: Injured faces and tales of woe as the impasse continues in Leinster House

Published 08/04/2016 | 02:30

Fine Gael TDs Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar discuss the talks at Leinster House. Photo: Arthur Carron
Fine Gael TDs Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar discuss the talks at Leinster House. Photo: Arthur Carron

Grappling for the moral high ground is always a slippery business. And the eel-like shimmies being performed here would almost be admirable, if only they weren't responsible for trapping the entire country powerlessly in treacle.

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Still, there was a certain comic value in being able to listen to the spinning of tall tales by first one and then the other - leading us to form the inevitable conclusion that, neither, in fact, was strictly telling the entire, unvarnished, truth.

It was a peculiar sort of a day in Leinster House, as deputies scuttled secretively to meetings but spent most of the time, probably more productively, in furtive huddles out in the car park.

Nobody was holding their breath but surely something had to be happening with all that coffee they were drinking.

Finally, we had what first looked to be white smoke - but turned out to be the ineffectual plumage of dry ice which had frozen Enda Kenny's grand gesture, mid-sentence.

No deal.

Fine Gael tried to steal the first march in the afternoon when they sent out the Taoiseach's spokesperson Feargal Purcell to give a statement explaining Fine Gael's point of view.

It was a pre-emptive grenade thrown just before Micheál was due out - but Feargal was promptly sent packing by the Leinster House ushers.

The polished granite of the plinth is sacred ground, reserved solely for elected representatives giving their interviews and, according to protocol, not to be used by any lesser personage - regardless of their power.

Micheál Martin sniffed that there was "an element of choreography" about Fine Gael's handling of the whole business.

"This isn't about personalities," he said before muttering darkly about how "relationships are key" and that "the last 24 hours had in some respects, left a lot to be desired".

So, presumably, it is about personalities, then - with the unspoken suggestion that Enda had swanked in with an offer that Fianna Fáil could certainly find it in their hearts to refuse.

This was swiftly batted back over the net by Simon Coveney, equally sniffy saying that Fianna Fáil's suggestions about choreography were "rubbish" and that Micheál's remark about the last 24 hours was "regrettable".

In fact, he wasn't even sure what Micheál was talking about, and Fianna Fáil were making a load of excuses anyway, he summed up.

Micheál was half-right and Simon only half-wrong.

In fact, both parties are in tutus, mincing along on their pointes in a great show of balletic choreography designed to get the best deal for themselves.

But of more importance even than the dance itself is how it all looks to the outside world, with the real battle playing out in the press releases and on the plinth, where they assembled with their best injured faces, each surpassing the other with their tales of woe and mis-treatment.

A ploy that, let's face it, isn't really working at all.

So who was telling the truth? It probably doesn't even really matter.

"It might just be part of the dance," a Fianna Fáil TD privately conceded, after the rapidly aborted meeting between Enda and Micheál; which followed the three-and-a half-hour Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, in which the general opinion was "certainly not unanimous" that they should enter into a partnership with Fine Gael. Nevertheless, the same Fianna Fáil TD said the partnership was probably the only realistic option but that Micheál Martin felt he should stand by his word to the electorate that he would cut no deal with Fine Gael.

Alan Kelly emerged as an early bellwether when he went on 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' on RTE One, saying there had been a lot of "flirting" with Independents but that the "only option in town" was a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael coalition.

However he wasn't hopeful.

"My belief is that he'll put Fianna Fáil first - but I could be wrong and I hope I'm wrong," he said, grimly, of Micheál Martin.

And as this drags on, this is certainly how it begins to look.

Fine Gael are "keeping the door open", Simon Coveney said.

In the meantime, a rumour was doing the rounds of an offer of a state car to an independent rural TD.

They have until Thursday to fix it up. After that, we can all start worrying for real.

Irish Independent

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