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How the next government will look - one way or another

John Downing


 

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Magic: Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin tries on a Harry Potter scarf, much to the amusement of his partner Lynn Boylan, in the Dublin Mid West count centre. Photo: Frank McGrath

Magic: Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin tries on a Harry Potter scarf, much to the amusement of his partner Lynn Boylan, in the Dublin Mid West count centre. Photo: Frank McGrath

Magic: Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin tries on a Harry Potter scarf, much to the amusement of his partner Lynn Boylan, in the Dublin Mid West count centre. Photo: Frank McGrath

It will be more than difficult for the ladies and gentlemen of Irish politics to form a stable government from this mayhem. Read John Downing's look at the options for achieving the magic 80-plus TDs … and then we can all quietly weep

Fianna Fáil-led centre-left

Micheál Martin's party still has hopes of having the largest number of TDs.

That sustains the hope it can head a coalition including Green Party, Labour, Social Democrats, and various amenable Independents.

It's unclear how really do-able this is. It could take a long time to put together - more than the 70 days government-making in 2016.

There would be doubts about the durability of such a diverse grouping in government, especially if the majority is fragile. Its ability to take decisive action would be limited.

Those left in opposition would have a time-limited interest in allowing it function.

But stranger line-ups have emerged and endured in the history of Irish politics.

 

FF-FG in Grand Coalition

This one is likely to have good numbers around the magic 80-plus TDs required.

It would be difficult for both parties.

But it would be harder for Fianna Fáil, which turned it down in 2016 - including an offer to divide the Taoiseach's office between both leaders over the government term.

Hard to sell in both large, but shrinking, parties which are big organisations interested in staying in business after decades of slog and tradition.

Sharing government inevitably raises the prospects of a medium to long-term merger.

A huge taboo would have to be broken.

But we have seen many political taboos breached - especially over the past 30 years.

 

Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil

Again likely to be numerically doable with both parties combined scoring close to 80-plus TDs. They might require some outside support.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin closed, locked, and nailed shut the door against this option during the long campaign.

But he softened his tone a good deal as count figures emerged on Sunday afternoon and spoke of the need to provide government.

Some in Sinn Féin would have serious misgivings.

Selling the idea to Fianna Fáil would be even more problematic.

But many backbench TDs in Fianna Fáil argue that the two parties have more points in common than in conflict.

Micheál Martin was so emphatically against this option that he would need some form of decent political cover to begin any U-turn.

 

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin

This is almost certainly a non-starter. For myriad political and cultural reasons, it was always viewed as at the further end of options.

And the likely combined total seats of both parties means this scenario would not get to the starting gate of 80-plus TDs.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar slammed the door shut on this. But, unlike Mr Martin, the Taoiseach did not nail it shut repeatedly.

It would be a hard sell for Fine Gael as "the ones who stood against anarchy".

Sinn Féin's "old guard" equates Fine Gael as unduly happy battling Republicans.

But we have seen unlikely political bedfellows before.

 

A pan-left government

Another non-starter. The idea has been bandied about by Sinn Féin and other groups such as Solidarity/People Before Profit.

The Green Party, Labour, Social Democrats, and some left-leaning Independents would have been obliged to talk, with varying degrees of real enthusiasm.

It would have been billed as Ireland's 'Front Populaire' with comparisons to France and Spain in the 1930s.

But forget it.

The marathon counts and re-counts will not throw up numbers anywhere near the magic 80-plus.

At best it is an idea for another election day.

Irish Independent


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