Wednesday 20 June 2018

Dáil numbers will trump those 'no coalition' pledges

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John Downing

John Downing

This was going to be a "free offer" - but the recession is over. So we are offering a good rate for those who sign up early.

We are specifically offering a post-general election speech, loaded with eloquent sincerity, explaining how those pre-election vows of "no Coalition ever with Sinn Féin" have been nullified by the "people's verdict" at the ballot box.

It is primarily targeted at Fine Gael and/or Fianna Fáil, and each speech will be very specifically tailored reflecting the parties' long histories. But other parties or groups could do worse than consider this unique offer.

For now, we can only give a flavour of what it might contain. But try this on for size.

"I know we have insisted many times, with very good reason, that we would never share government with Sinn Féin. But the voters of Ireland have now given us their verdict. The configuration of seats tells us that government without Sinn Féin is not an option. So, we must face up to our responsibilities," the speech would go.

For a small additional fee, we can provide the rhetorically enhanced "prebuttal" version. It might sound like this: "I know many critics will speak of treachery or broken promises. But let me say this, failure to provide government would be the real treachery here."

This offer comes as Fine Gael's junior health minister, Jim Daly, has caused upset by saying he has no objection in principle to a future coalition with Sinn Féin. Mr Daly, known for his sincerity and plain speaking, insists the awkward timing is purely coincidental, coming in the wake of British Tory claims that Sinn Féin is unduly influencing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's approach to Brexit negotiations.

He said his comments were made some weeks ago and only published in the magazine concerned this week. It is interesting that these comments accord with other remarks some months ago by Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty.

The views clash with Fine Gael orthodoxy which insists Sinn Féin's policies are the opposite of theirs, and the toxic links to the IRA's dark past remain. The same argument is going within Fianna Fáil where Micheál Martin's "no, nay, never" is publicly second-guessed by other key party figures.

Let's face a reality here: the least likely outcome of the next general election will be another election. Dáil arithmetic will trump any "no coalition" pledges.

Irish Independent

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