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Biggest challenges facing Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is 'setting themselves apart' - experts


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Professor Gary Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Professor Gary Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)

Professor Gary Murphy (Brian Lawless/PA)

One of the biggest challenges facing Ireland’s two dominant parties is setting themselves apart as they form the most historic coalition in the State, experts have said.

The endorsement of the government blueprint bridges political rivals Fianna Fail and Fine Gael as they enter government together for the first time.

The dramatic change of Ireland’s political landscape comes five months after the general election.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have dominated Irish politics and have for decades swapped power between them during elections.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, whose party has the most seats, is set to become the next Taoiseach.

DCU lecturer Dr Eoin O’Malley said he believes the government will survive the five-year term.

Dr O’Malley, from the School of Law and Government, said: “I think they will govern quite easily together. Although culturally there are differences between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, they’re probably very similar in terms of their outlook.

“Where they will have a problem, however, which is inevitable in any government, you have to distinguish yourself from each other.

“It’s often quite easy when you have parties with different ideological outlooks and so one is fighting for one thing and the other is fighting for a different thing, but in this case you’ll have two parties with broadly similar centrist outlooks.

“They may not have obvious things in which they will necessarily disagree, so it might mean that they end up inventing a few things.

“I suspect that in Fianna Fail and Fine Gael’s case they will both try to find differences between themselves, which will end up creating problems that we won’t be able to predict in advance.

“You’ll find that one of the parties will dig in on something. So what you might find is some very odd little thing could come up again and again, which nobody would have predicted because there’s no kind of ideological predictor, and that will cause tensions within the government.

“I don’t think there will be enough to bring a government down unless a massive scandal happens.”

Gary Murphy, professor of politics at DCU, said both parties will worry about how they will differentiate themselves.

“They are practically the same. Fianna Fail are historically more centre, maybe centre left, and Fine Gael more centre right, so it will be interesting to see that dynamic,” Prof Murphy said.

“I think you will see some efforts to differentiate themselves but I don’t see how that will be done.

“It will be a really important coalition for both parties as they look to the future.”

Dr O’Malley said both parties will be anxious to get a lot done in this government as they have Sinn Fein “chipping” at their votes.

“Fianna Fail will be under a lot more pressure to produce a competent government,” Dr O’Malley added.

“The Taoiseach and Tanaiste will be more or less equal, it’s only symbolic that Micheal Martin has the job of Taoiseach. There will probably be significant changes in how the two work together.

“I think Fianna Fail will be anxious to get a lot done – they will be trying to undercut Sinn Fein as they try to solve the housing crisis and get a lot of good work done within healthcare.

“This could be more left wing than any government we’ve ever had in the history of the State.

“Meanwhile, Sinn Fein will want to show themselves to be this large opposition party that can probably kill off the Labour Party and maybe take some votes from the Social Democrats.”

Mr Murphy, who described it as the “most historic collation in the history of the State”, also said Micheal Martin’s party is best served in government following their “calamitous” results in February’s general election.

“Going into government offers Fianna Fail a chance to try make a success out of the party,” Mr Murphy added.

“I think if there is to be any future for either of the two main parties they have to fix the problems in housing and health so they have to make a success of this.

“They are clearly moving leftwards, there is no doubt about that. The solutions offered, particularly by Sinn Fein in the 2020 election, were all about the State intervening.

“The country wants some left-wing solution but it will be difficult for Fine Gael to differentiate themselves.

“The person who has the most to gain and the most to lose is Micheal Martin. It’s not just important for him being Taoiseach but it’s also doing a good job.”

PA Media


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