THIS is my last column of the winter. When next I appear, DV, the new calendar season will have arrived, as the sprigs of spring push through the soil and the honeysuckle sprouts green shoots.
The bacteria in the earth are now waking from their long slumbers and have started to metabolise: soon their secret industry will release the sweet, loamy fragrance that we all love, though it has no name in English. The first magical whiff of the morning air that announces that winter has fully and finally gone is one of the most wondrous sensations of the year. It ranks with the sight of the first swallow and the sound of the first cuckoo. And, soon, we should have caught the first glimpse of that very rare bird, a Fine Gael Taoiseach.
Now even to want the T-job is a clear sign of clinical insanity. But then, of course, no one enters political life in pursuit of the insignificance, invisibility and impotence that are evidence of a healthy mind. Politicians want to be important, to be seen and to have power.
Some people are strangely suited for this deviant way of life -- Lemass, Haughey, Ahern -- not least because language seemed to have little or no meaning for them.
Some -- Garret FitzGerald, Enda Kenny -- are largely unsuited; the former because he speed-spoke an incomprehensible dialect of Albanian and the latter because he addresses audiences rather like Dustin the Turkey doing Henry V at Agincourt.
But he will be Taoiseach. That is certain. At this point in our history, the most critical since the Civil War, I think we owe him not merely our loyalty but, in this crisis, our fealty also. For since Fianna Fail first came to government on March 9, 1932, Fine Gael has never been in power without a coalition.
When the Dail resumes on March 9, the 79th anniversary of that Fianna Fail accession, Fine Gael might finally be able to impose its own undiluted will on the affairs of the State.
It has always been a distorting factor for the politics of post-World War II Ireland that all Fine Gael governments have had to depend on minority parties, for these have invariably and disastrously wagged the governmental dog. The petulant departure from the Commonwealth and the largely meaningless declaration of a 26-county Republic -- I think it's that, because the Constitution, bizarrely, still makes no mention of it -- was really the work of the abominable Sean MacBride. And that Svengali could have bewitched a basket full of two-headed cobras, never mind the poor veal calf that was John A Costello.
There was another inter-party government for three years in the 1950s, distinguished solely by the great Tom Teevan (the uncle), after which Fine Gael was out of power until 1973. And the general election that then produced the Fine Gael-led coalition took place precisely 38 years ago this coming Monday.
We can now confidently say that the dependency of Fine Gael on Labour during the national crisis caused by the Provisional IRA campaign was historically disastrous. Labour simply would not tolerate the measures needed to put the IRA down, for which Cosgrave probably (and uniquely) had the stomach. This was especially so after the British had been induced to sign the Sunningdale Agreement, outlawing a unionist-only government in the North and guaranteeing an all-Ireland dimension to any political settlement there.
But the apparent logic of Labour's 'civil liberties' lobby was that the rights of IRA terrorists were, on balance, far more important than those of their victims. And so another 33 years of war, with the many freedoms of the grave for thousands, awaited these islands.
Garret FitzGerald was not made of the law and order stuff of Cosgrave, but like him he sought and was granted another treaty with the British, giving the Republic a permanent say over the affairs of the North. However, this was not repaid with a ruthless crackdown on the IRA -- and if a Fine Gael government can't manage that, then what good is it? Economically, the Haughey-FitzGerald ping-pong duopoly was like alternating governance between a thieving Perkin Warbeck and an inept Lambert Simnel.
Well, the Irish Republican Army is not the issue today, whereas the Irish Republic's Autonomy is. Now I've often said that our national sovereignty is over and that we're a mere colony of the new Brussels Empire. Even if we default on our repayments, it might not be as an expression of our sovereign political will but simply because we have no money.
However, in this matter, as in so many others before, I don't mind being wholly mistaken. I'm a mere hack, not a Karl Rove or a Karl Marx. If Enda Kenny can prove me and the many pessimists wrong, then all power to him.
Today, I hope that the people of Ireland give one single party a clear and unmixed mandate to govern and to negotiate with Europe alone. The only possible candidate for such an endorsement is Fine Gael. So be it. Now is the hour for national unity. God speed you on your journey as Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.