Tuesday 28 January 2020

Kevin Doyle: Farce shows distrust between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will be harder to get over than any policy differences

A new election is on the cards. Photo: Steve Humphreys
A new election is on the cards. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Literally 1,000 hours had passed since polling when Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin finally sat down in Room 716 between Leinster House and Government Buildings.

Such was the hype around the talks that 'neutral ground' had to be found within the sprawling complex in case anybody interpreted a trip by the Fianna Fáil leader into the Department of An Taoiseach as a positive sign. Of course, we were told Enda was "generous and open".

Meanwhile, Micheál was "engaged and willing".

It's clear now though that there were no good vibes in the room at all.

In fact they can't even agree on what happened in the room. Imagine if they sat down to formulate a Budget.

Prior to the meeting, Fine Gael ministers were worried about letting Mr Kenny off on his own to discuss the future of the country with his arch-nemesis. Flashbacks to TV debates abounded.

So it appears that they armed him with a trump card to be played without hesitation in order to put Mr Martin on the back foot.

By skipping straight to the punchline and offering an, albeit undefined, "equal partnership" Fine Gael stunned Fianna Fáil.

"Micheál Martin was shocked that the offer came at that meeting," said one source.

The Fianna Fáil leader claims that Mr Kenny even went so far as to effectively threaten that it was "a coalition or a second election".

Fine Gael denies this outright, saying nothing was taken off the table.

We may never know and it's unlikely that the note-taker who had to sit in the room with the two men will be turning up on 'Dr Phil' to tell of her trauma any time soon.

But the row shows that it might be harder for the two parties to get over the distrust than any policy differences.

Meanwhile, the public are looking on, wondering if they should have just spoiled their ballots altogether on February 26 and put all the politicians out on the street. By the end of yesterday's drama, both sides accepted that they will have to talk again if a second election is to be avoided - but there are no plans for talking just yet.

In the background, the Independent TDs are mulling their options in the full knowledge that they now hold even more sway than they did just 48 hours ago.

Although as one pointed out privately: "There's no point going into a government that lasts only six months or a year. We might as well have the second now as in six months' time."

The only way another election can be avoided is by Martin and Kenny swallowing their pride and getting back into the room - but with a few of their negotiating team on board to ensure clarity.

The Dáil will make a third attempt at electing a Taoiseach next Thursday.

The pantomime will be repeated as Sinn Féin shouts about the farce and the AAA-PBP nominates a third person for Taoiseach. They might get to all six TDs yet.

At this stage, it seems as likely we'll have a second election as it does that we'll have a government.

Irish Independent

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