Friday 24 November 2017

Fine Gael miss the opportunity to go it alone in Government

with Gavin Duffy

REGULAR READERS will know that I was hoping for a strong, single party, Fine Gael Government. I am not a regular Fine Gael voter but I was "lending" the party my vote to once and for all sort out the mess our country has got into.

To do so needed a strong Government, not a coalition based and run on compromise. I made no secret of this writing in this column two weeks ago. After all this is why this is called an "opinion column", so I give my opinion, only for you to consider it.

I am disappointed that Fine Gael which had other solid options rushed into a Coalition with the Labour party which is heavily influenced and driven by the Trade Unions.

Would it have been possible to have a minority Government supported by Independents? We will never know. Surely with such a large number of Independents it is unbelievable that no one from Fine Gael apparently even bothered to enquire would there be eight to ten Independents prepared to support a minority Fine Gael administration.

Of course people will say this option would not have guaranteed stability. But on the other hand that is what made it so attractive. Let me explain. Enda Kenny could have done a deal with the Independents and tied them in for maybe two years. Then, when the going got tough for the Independents and they were threatening to pull out, Fine Gael then could have done a deal with Labour. Labour would have been as keen then to get the perks of power as they are now.

Please don't forget to work into the equation we will have a newly elected President by then. When that Presidential election takes place, candidates will no doubt be asked and reminded of their responsibility not to automatically grant a dissolution of the Dáil, but rather force the various party leaders to find and an alternative Government when the numbers are there. The point I am making is Enda was pretty certain he could take support from the Independents and, then if necessary, throw them overboard and coalesce with Labour.

By going it alone with the support of Independents it would mean Fianna Fail would have been relegated further to being merely the second party on the opposition benches. It seems many voters really wanted to administer maximum punishment to Fianna Fail, so Enda Kenny would have been doing his party and those voters a great service by taking this course of action. But again this wasn't even considered.

Of course Enda Kenny could also have governed, albeit with a minority, if he had at least tried to call Micheál Martin's bluff as regards demanding a Tallaght Strategy, Mark 2, in reverse from the Soldiers of Destiny. Fianna Fail was, after all, obliged to support Fine Gael to 2014 once it was following the IMF/EU deal to reduce the national deficit.

Again in this option there was the opportunity that once this arrangement had run its course Fine Gael could bring the Labour Party into Government at that stage.

Labour too despite all their preaching for years about the country needing a Left – Right axis spurned the opportunity to bring that about by rushing into a coalition to prop up Fine Gael in Government. Also there was much sense to Labour going into opposition for a couple of years as it would shove Sinn Fein and the rest of the hard Left down the pecking order on the opposition benches. Instead they will now be chipping away at Labour for the next number of years.


But it is the Department of Finance and RTE that also played a key role this week. The former by why it did do and the latter by what it didn't do.

The Department of Finance brought the two parties in to tell them things were even worse than they told them they were apparently a month ago. So by frightening Fine Gael you force them to go for a large majority with Labour and of course Labour will protect the Public Sector the king pins of whom are all in the Department of Finance.

And RTE, our national broadcaster didn't do itself any favours. Congratulations on its wonderful count coverage but then, as the public sector does, having worked a bit of overtime it demanded its TOIL. That is time off in lieu of the hard work they had put in during the election.

So RTE chose not to report on any alternative to a Government without Labour. For example, should Primetime not at least have done a special on the newly elected Independent TDs to the 31st Dáil to establish who are they, are they left, right or centre and what was the opportunity of finding eight or ten in their number that might consider supporting a Fine Gael minority Government.

Again RTE has left itself open to the criticism that it is very pro the Labour Party and Trade Unions. Of course this is not surprising, as for years many have claimed RTE is run by the Trade Unions not management.

But it is surprising that in a week when there was very little political news, as both the Fine Gael and Labour negotiators were maintaining a media blackout on their talks, that RTE did not ask why is Fine Gael rushing into Government with Labour?

Perhaps the reason RTE didn't is that RTE is a public service broadcaster and therefore it sees its job as protecting the public service and therefore promotes the idea of the Labour party sharing power because that ultimately protects RTE's own vested interest.

There can be no other explanation as to why RTE from election count night on, persisted in promoting Labour as the automatic dance partner to Fine Gael.

And, as I have stated, there was no coverage all this last week of the Independent's and their respective political leanings. If during the election it made sense to have Charlie Bird going around the country talking to anyone he met out walking their dog and asking them for their views on our national crisis, surely, those who had successfully run for the Dáil deserved to be given a voice this last week.

No the truth is despite an historic election result very little has changed.

The Department of Finance wants to protect its own salaries and pensions and saw Labour in Government as a means to assist it in that goal.

RTE still appears to have a bias in favour of the Labour Party.

And politicians, be they Fine Gael or Labour, will do anything to enjoy the trappings of power and will want to secure themselves the opportunity of holding onto that power for as long as they can. All other options are secondary.

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