Monday 19 February 2018

Independents don't want to be involved in the nitty-gritty details

Enda Kenny's tactical approach to negotiating with Independent TDs has not worked Photo: Ireland
Enda Kenny's tactical approach to negotiating with Independent TDs has not worked Photo: Ireland
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael's chosen image as a changed party - one that invites mere independents around to Government Buildings to discuss the big challenges facing the country - is starting to fall apart.

When the so-called Rural Five indicated Enda Kenny was "in the driving seat" to form the next government, Mr Kenny and his ministers thought they had finally got the breakthrough they were waiting for. But with that waiting game over, Fine Gael strategists decided to stage-manage another long-winded process aimed at developing a programme for government.

They wanted to be inclusive and open-minded, to hear what everybody has to say and to mull over how they could facilitate their individual requirements. It definitely sounded very 'new politics'. The only problem is that we already know where the Rural Five, the Independent Alliance and others stand.

And now the independents are growing impatient. At last Thursday's roundtable meeting, officials from the Department of Environment briefed the assembled teamed on how bad the housing situation really is.

They were told that the aim of building 25,000 homes a year is not going to be achieved anytime soon. "That seemed to come as more of a surprise to Richard Bruton than the non-government TDs," said one observer.

The reality is that the independents don't want to be involved in the nitty-gritty of writing a plan for government.

They want one presented to them that they can then judge on its merits and perhaps then seek amendments.

Depending on your viewpoint, it's either a lazy or a pragmatic approach.

Seventeen independents trying to each work on the script from the start is a difficult ask. Perhaps, no matter how noble it might sound, too difficult.

And it leaves a scenario where after their Fine Gael meetings in Government Buildings, the independent TDs wander back down the street into Leinster House for coffee with Fianna Fáil.

There's no deadline for forming a government but with all the excuses like St Patrick's Day and the Easter commemorations out of the way, voters will now expect to see some definitive movement.

Mr Kenny needs to change tactics and Fianna Fáil needs to up the ante this week. Because as one Fine Gael minister put it: "If, on April 6, nobody gets one extra vote, what happens then? At that point we can't keep saying we talking to independents. If there is stalemate on April 6, it'll be a whole new ball game."

Irish Independent

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