Wednesday 18 July 2018

Sinn Féin prepare to target FF 'facilitators'

Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty
Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty
John Downing

John Downing

Now that a government-making water deal between the "big two" is edging towards the finish line, just listen to Sinn Féin pump up the volume.

From this evening Sinn Féin are going into Árd Fheis mode at the swish National Conference Centre in Dublin, and Fianna Fáil, especially, will be their number one target.

Finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, did not spare the vitriol yesterday when he said the emerging compromise on Irish Water and water charges was the "ultimate betrayal of Irish citizens" who, he claimed, voted to abolish the charges last month.

The Donegal TD argued there will be a water charges regime, which he described as a "Phil Hogan mark-two scenario" based on basic allowances.

"There will still be domestic charges and domestic metering - this is a complete reneging of the commitment that Fianna Fáil made," Mr Doherty told reporters.

Just as he was speaking, on the Leinster House plinth, the Fianna Fáil TDs and senators were gathering for an update on the talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Some Fianna Fáil TDs, the ones from mainly urban areas who majored in their election campaign on getting rid of water charges, feared the deal would not play well in their heartlands.

They were told that such talk must be reined in - otherwise a general election might ensue. The threat of all these slow marathon machinations over the last eight weeks could still fall asunder and lead us to a snap election.

But that looks increasingly unlikely. We are far more likely to see Enda Kenny installed as Taoiseach atop an eclectic mix of TDs "facilitated" by Fianna Fáil.

A miscellany of intriguing questions remain to be answered about how this minority government will work in practice. But we already know two things: the Fianna Fáil government "facilitators" want to be the anchor tenants on the opposition benches; but Sinn Féin believe they can upend Fianna Fáil.

For Sinn Féin the water charges and Irish Water are just the start of a process where they hope to get "two for the price of one," in trying to hammer Fine Gael and then pivoting to deliver the same attack on the Fianna Fáil "facilitators."

The Sinn Féin target will be to try to deprive Fianna Fáil of Opposition leadership. They will seriously stress test Fianna Fáil's hopes of simply being the ones who strategically abstain to make government easier - that dictionary definition of "facilitate" - while also being the opposition linchpin.

Irish Independent

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