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All parties must combine to sell their deal responsibly

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Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, arrives at Government Buildings to discuss outstanding issues. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, arrives at Government Buildings to discuss outstanding issues. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, arrives at Government Buildings to discuss outstanding issues. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Marry in haste - repent at leisure, the old aphorism goes. Well, at 128 days and counting since the General Election, nobody is going to be accused of undue haste in agreeing a draft coalition deal.

But, despite not wanting to be too harsh with the protagonists in these marathon government-making talks, we must keep our congratulations to the bare minimum at this point. There is still a deal of uncertainty and work ahead of them here.

The simple reality is that it took forever to bring this draft deal to this point. This time around, by the time the process is completed it will have taken double the record time needed to build a coalition back in 2016. Now this process must quicken up and all further delays kept to the minimum.

Government has become vastly more complex since the country's first coalition of five political parties and six Independent TDs was put together in just 14 days back in 1948. The coronavirus epidemic has further increased demands for government to take a much stronger role.

But there has been evidence of terrible foot-dragging in these talks especially.

The Dáil arithmetic made the most likely coalition configuration clear at the end of vote-counting.

It should not have taken four months to get to this point. Now all three parties must unite: first to sell this agreement - when it is finally concluded - to all of their party memberships; then they must retain that unity to deliver on the pledges at a time when this country faces its biggest ever test.

Nobody gets everything they want in any negotiation. A good deal gives everybody some things that are important to them. At first glance this draft programme for government looks likely to have met that bar.

Thus Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the Green Party have an obligation to sell the deal in their various processes to each of their memberships.

This will be another balancing act because in a strange way the principals in each party have an obligation to one another from here on.

In simple terms, that means Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have to a acknowledge the concessions made to the Green Party. 

Equally, the Green Party leadership must not exaggerate their gains in such a way as to alienate traditional supporters of the two bigger parties. 

Thus, in efforts to "mind their own houses" and "deliver their own members", nobody must alarm the members of the other parties.

Trust was evidently in short supply over five weeks of intensive talks. One is left to assume that at least an element of trust finally crept into the talks in the latter days.

Above all else, coalition governments are built on interpersonal and inter-party trust. And the building of that trust starts in the selling of this deal. 

How the advocacy of the respective memberships for their support is handled by each party, with an emphasis on collegiality, will be a clear signal of how successful or otherwise the fledgling coalition might be.

Irish Independent