I'm a great fan of the historical counterfactual. What if the Nazis won World War II, or if John Fitzgerald Kennedy had lived? A favourite what-if of mine is this: what would have happened if First Officer William Murdoch had ordered the Titanic to ram the iceberg head on?
Engineers are divided as to what the outcome would have been. Some suggest that it would have contained the damage to the forward compartments and kept the ship afloat longer, possibly until rescue arrived. Others say that such a jarring impact would have sent an energy-wave straight down the ship, damaging compartments and ripping open seams and rivets, and perhaps causing the ship to sink even faster.
We will never know.
What we do know, with the benefit of historical hindsight, is that by trying to avoid the iceberg the ship did sink with massive loss of life.
Now, consider if William Murdoch, through some premonition of the future, saw the actual historical outcome, and decided to risk a possible different outcome and instead let the ship hit the iceberg head-on. What would have happened if he had succeeded?
Supposing the ship had not been sunk, but instead was rescued by the RMS Carpathia. How would Murdoch have been remembered?
The man who saved 1,200 lives, or the lunatic who rammed the world's most luxurious (and unsinkable) liner into an iceberg on its maiden voyage?
Watching Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar drag out the formation of a new government makes me recall the doomed Mr Murdoch.
He made the less risky call and doomed the ship. I can't help thinking that both leaders are doing the same to their parties.
The more I think about it, the more I conclude, especially with the coronavirus crisis upon us, that the best arrangement for all three parties and the country would be a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Sinn Féin troika of equals.
Suggest this and there's a tsunami of head-shaking and nevers from the two Civil War parties. That they'll never get it past their parliamentary parties, or past their members. That the safe thing to do is to try to steer around the iceberg.
Safe isn't cutting it anymore.
A Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael arrangement is a slap in the face to those who voted for change. It's also a guarantee of Sinn Féin emerging as the new Fianna Fáil-style dominant party, a new giant political planet around which the other smaller parties orbit as satellites to be plucked down to become coalition partners when convenient.
We could end up with both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in opposition whilst Sinn Féin, as Viktor Orban and Recep Tayyip Erdogan did, restructures the political, judicial and police systems in its own interest, effectively merging party and State.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have got to wake up to the fact that this is no longer politics as usual. The 2020 Election, depending on its outcome, has the potential to be as significant to the direction of this Republic as 1932 or 1948.
Both parties making an honest offer to Sinn Féin to join them in government recognises that, whilst not surrendering all power to Sinn Féin in a second election.
It provides a government with a clear majority and the ability to implement an agreed programme for government. It may require a legislative equalisation of the office of Taoiseach and Tánaiste, as in the first minister and deputy first minister, with the Department of Finance for the runner-up. It may require some form of rotation. It may even require the extension of the Dáil term to seven years to allow the government time to deliver its housing programme.
It could even benefit from changing the budgetary process, allow the minister to publish a draft proposed budget way before budget day, so that each party can see public reaction to proposals and allow for lobbying and budgetary cock-ups to be caught ahead of time.
The question, of course, is what does Sinn Féin gain from this? That all depends on what Sinn Féin really wants. If it is power and policies implemented to benefit the people who voted for it in record numbers then this is how to do it.
If it is to remain outside, hoping for a better result, that's quite possible but it is worth bearing in mind that such a stance means that Sinn Féin has to turn down an invitation to enter government, possibly with Mary Lou McDonald as Taoiseach.
It also ends the battle cry that it is an anti-establishment party being kept from power by the forces of conservatism. It becomes just another bunch of manoeuvring politicians.
From a cynical point of view, entering government during the coronavirus crisis also gives it a ready-made excuse if its policies aren't as easy to deliver in government as first thought, especially in health.
For Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, this is both courageous yet currently low risk in some ways. If Sinn Féin walks away in a tantrum because it thinks it has won an election and is furious if it doesn't get everything its own way, then that becomes what the second election is fought over: the policies that both parties prevented being implemented on their voters.
Not the worst platform to fight an election on. "We tried, but we weren't going to let them do X", etc.
All this hinges on Micheál and Leo having a sense of vision and also a willingness to confront their own parties, or let them make the decision that could doom their parties.
Or they could order full steam ahead and damn the iceberg.