Friday 15 December 2017

Enda/Eamon deal to be a marriage of sorts


IWONDER if the coalition deal took the form of a Catholic marriage where vows are exchanged – a promise that you'll stick by your partner for life, no matter what. Who knows, maybe somewhere in a back room while those drafting a span new programme for Government were hard at work, Enda and Eamon might have held hands and looked each other in the eyes as they pledged mutual unconditional love.

Many of the older generation believe that marriage isn't what it used to be. These days, it's just too easy to inflate the lifejacket and jump as soon as the love ship hits a storm. Coalition governments were always like that. For a while, all seemed relaxed and lovey-dovey. But invariably – once the honeymoon period was over and the realities of a long-term relationship hit home, the two partners began sleeping in separate rooms, communication broke down and one of them ended up having an affair with one of the Opposition parties.

To be fair, Enda and Eamon have got off to a good start. Forget the silly bickering that went on during the election campaign – that was all just a form of flirting under a different guise. What ultimately has transpired is an agreement to get this little country out of the big, black hole it was landed in.

At the root of any good marriage or relationship is compromise, and Enda and Eamon have appeared to have used that much as the basis of their new-found love.

But of course, compromise has its price too. There is always the danger that either or both lovers could lose their individuality. Too much compromise forces you to water down your strong personality – the very thing that may have attracted your partner to you in the first instance. And when the detail of this Coalition's Programme for Government is scrutinised, all of us – the kids in the marriage – will discover that much of what we initially hoped for is no longer part of the plan.

For starters, the first looming row over which party would take the Finance portfolio was staved off by the ultimate Irish solution: give both parties a bit of the action. So we'll have two Finance Ministers, not one. Despite Fine Gael's pre-election determination to keep 2014 as the target date for reducing the deficit by 3pc, it's now gone back a year to 2015. For one reason and one reason only, they did this to meet Labour half way on their target date of 2016.

Funny enough, the compromise date is exactly what Europe has been suggesting all along. And within a few days, Fine Gael's promise to deliver 30,000 voluntary redundancies in the public sector has also changed in an effort to maintain the loyalty of their new lovers. Labour wanted just 18,000.

So both parties have met in the middle, aiming for between 18,000 and 21,000 for the first two years with scope for a further 5,000 thereafter. We've all heard about Dr James Reilly and Fine Gael's obsession with a privatised health system that is based on the Dutch model. Well, in the name of love, the Blueshirts have accommodated Labour and both are agreed on a Universal Health Insurance. They'll abolish the HSE too, in time, but they'll have shared many the night in bed together before this will actually come about.

Its' not written anywhere in the new Programme for Government document, but surely Enda and Eamon must have whispered in each other's ear: 'Let's learn from past relationships'. Because the greatest lesson of all in how not to conduct yourself in a marriage was given by Fianna Fail and the Greens in the last Government.

To be honest, John Gormley and the Greens married above themselves. Cowen was always wearing the pants in that relationship. In the end, Fianna Fail fell out of love with their partners, simply because they loved themselves too much. Compromise went out the bedroom window.

They say that good marriages take work. It's possible that two lovers can grow more in love as time goes by. Just like marriage, coalition deals are a work in progress. The honeymoon is and should be no more than a hint of the good times to come. We need this marriage to work, now more than ever.

There's even an argument to be put forward for Enda and Eamon staying together for the sake of the kids – us, the taxpayers. What we don't need now is a fling; a one-night stand. We need something more stable where Enda and Eamon remain committed to each other and to us.

That way, home is a much happier place. Eamon Gilmore and his party have had their flings in the past, primarily with Fianna Fail, some good and some not so good.

It's time now for him to settle down. Enda has long been the bridesmaid of Irish politics. He's finally got his chance to walk up the aisle and commit to a partner that he's in this thing for the long haul, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Here's hoping they'll grow a little bit older together. Anyway, we just can't afford another divorce.

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