Sunday 21 July 2019

Real war is between Ross, Renua and those old-style independents

Battle of 2016 will consist of the audition to be the third leg of a Troika, led by Fine Gael and Labour, writes John Drennan

REAL POLITICAL BATTLE: Between the Independent Alliance which includes Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, above, and Renua Ireland, launched by Lucinda Creighton,
REAL POLITICAL BATTLE: Between the Independent Alliance which includes Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, above, and Renua Ireland, launched by Lucinda Creighton,
Lucinda Creighton pictured at the launch of the new Renua party

John Drennan

We are sorry, but, it is all sorted out really. Of course there will have to be a show, a narrative, some pantomime villains and possibly even heroes too.

But, when it comes to the main card, the end result is as predetermined as those old American wrestling shows.

If you're wondering, we're talking about the Definitely Maybe 2016 election.

You might think that logic is supplanted by the 'Definitely Maybe' line.

Our reasoning there, however, is that one of the two areas of uncertainty surrounding the show is the date of the existential battle.

For now, all the political flatfoots are saying 2016 is as sure as the existence of gravity.

But, if things are looking sweet in October and we are reaching the bottom of the Budget sack with the giveaways that could change swiftly.

The timing may be influenced by one other key factor. Generally the voters begin to organise themselves about a year before the main event.

When it comes to the Definitely Maybe 2016 election, the moving finger is on the go and it is pointing strongly at the Labour/Fine Gael option.

It may not have finished writing yet, but a certain narrative is emerging that will take a great deal of piety or wit to turn.

Paddy will never be in love with the Coalition cartel's core philosophy of building a 'modest prosperity' that was so cleverly devised by Joan Burton. And he will certainly never develop anything beyond a frosty tolerance to Mr Kenny's unique persona.

But, having lost the farm once through his mad ways, he is prepared to settle down reluctantly with the spinsterish Ms 'Modest Prosperity' in the absence of much signs of anything better coming along.

Mind you, were that prospect to trot over wearing a shorter political skirt... That, though, is not going to occur in time for 2016.

For now, what is clear is that like one of those perfect fairytales - after great travails Prince Enda and... ahem... Joan are meant to be.

Finally, the great political spell where Fine Gael and Labour were cursed never to be re-elected has been broken. Fine Gael and Labour snuggling up to each other may inspire similar emotions amidst the electorate to those experienced by teenage children watching their parents kiss. But it has imposed an iron strategic bind upon the Opposition.

Whether Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail like it or not, the Coalition entente non cordiale has forced these two into each other's arms.

They may not like it too much and the voters are starting to like it even less, but, Fine Gael's increasingly definitive rejection of Fianna Fail, even as junior partners, means that the alternative government being presented to us consists of the two dominant forces in the opposition benches.

And that can only be good news for the Coalition.

It is not unusual to say the Opposition are the worst in the history of the state. We say it of every opposition because the centrist nature of Irish politics means that oppositions, or rather the big opposition parties, rarely have anything interesting to say or different from their government doppelganger's offerings.

That said, on this occasion when we say this is the worst opposition ever... well even Carlsberg couldn't make an opposition like that.

Fine Gael under John Bruton or Baldy Noonan, prior to his current apogee as the national grandfather, or Fine Gael under Enda Kenny brought an occasional grandeur to ineptitude. But, these Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein guys are special. We have Fianna Fail politicians who, like Fine Gael in the past, have responded to the attempt by the Coalition to kill off their party by attempting to murder each other.

Sinn Fein has it own issues with murder and sexual abuse.

Ultimately, an even greater weakness is that ideologically Sinn Fein is the political equivalent of one of those Ponzi schemes, where fellows end up owning an apartment block in Bulgaria and wait ever more uneasily for the locals to send on the rent.

Like all moral fairytales, there is a twist in the tale for the Coalition. Paddy has neither forgiven nor forgotten the indignities he has experienced since that day in 2011 when he was told to hang out his brightest colours only to find that Enda was dressed in motley.

A price will be exacted for his support. For while Labour will escape from Green Party-style meltdown towards a bit of that modest prosperity Joan likes so much, there most assuredly will not be any Gilmore-style partying.

Once Labour starts tipping towards the 20-seat mark that will be quite enough for it.

Fine Gael can forget any single-party government impulses too. The electorate will, as its price, restore that party to its old, modest 50-seat status and it can be grateful for that.

An increasingly bumptious Coalition do not, of course, know it yet. However a rather razor-wired sense of public indignation means that whilst the Coalition cabal will be allowed reach 70 or 75 seats in order to keep the lunatics and incompetents out, thus far and no further will forgiveness travel.

There is, in short, no way that Paddy is prepared to put the Coalition cabal into power on its own again.

Enda, Joan, Micheal and Gerry may steal the blood and thunder when it comes to election coverage. The real war, though, will be fought out on a very different front.

It will consist of the battle between Renua, the Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice City Country and Western Alliance and old-fashioned Independent Independents.

All three will be seeking the sort of critical mass of seats that, once the shooting is over, will at least secure themselves the opportunity to audition in front of 'Dear Leader' Enda. Or, in their view, Dear Leader Enda may find himself auditioning in front of them.

Were it the latter, the punishment would certainly fit the crime of the great betrayal of the democratic revolution.

Indeed, a certain bit of what the soccer transfer market calls 'tapping up', has already been taking place.

Not, of course, that Dear Leader Enda knows anything about that. It is intriguing that to date the favoured option is the gang of four Independent Independents.

In a classic example of history repeating itself - though whether we are talking about tragedy or farce is hard to ascertain - we are facing a reprise of the situation where an overly strong Fianna Fail and a fatally weakened Progressive Democrat Coalition governed with the help of four of the oddest Country and Western-style Independents seen in the country.

Whom they are courting gives us a good idea of the Coalition's future intentions which, if given the choice does not involve any fooling around with the ideologically driven Renua or the, ahem, iconoclastic Ross alternative .

In fairness, when it comes to pragmatic governance there is, it has to be said, a lot to say in favour of the old Country and Western- style Independent such as Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish, Michael Healy Rae or Denis Naughten.

Rather like the good sheepdog they are loyal, steady and immensely alert to danger.

They are certainly seen as a better alternative to a Lucinda in Cabinet whilst when it comes to a Ross... well that is a marriage definitely made in hell.

There is, however, one rogue variable that may scotch the currently well-laid plans of Enda's mice and men.

That variable inevitably is Paddy. There has been no shortage of complaints from Paddy about the democratic revolution and the damage done to Paddy's idealistic soul by its Cordelia-like state.

If Paddy is as upset as he pleads he can decide to support the concept of Lucinda or Ross or even Fitzmaurice as the people's watchdog in Enda's people's cabinet.

By contrast, if steady as she goes and no messing about with what Bertie used to call ettics is what he wants, that option is now open.

Paddy's struggles in that regard may yet be the most interesting feature of the Definitely Maybe vote.

Sunday Independent

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