One Election? Can this group band together to form Government..or are they headed back to the polls?

NewsBy Eamon Dillon
One Election? Can this group band together to form Government..or are they headed back to the polls?

It’s time to talk to the Old Enemy.

On the day when Ireland played England at Twickenham, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil also received Ireland’s Call.

A hundred years after the Easter Rising, the voters have said it is time for the Civil War parties to put history behind them and form a stable government that can last for five years.

The only alternatives to this ‘grand coalition’ of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is for Fine Gael, a battered Labour party and sundry Independents to put together some form of multi-coloured Rainbow or kaleidoscope – or for Sinn Fein to play kingmakers in an unlikely coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. 

That might work for three months, or six, or a year, before we’d have to do it all again at the polling booths.

That would signal a very unstable period in Irish politics and business – and investors do not like uncertainty.

No, the only option to end this political chaos is for the two ‘big beasts’ to get their act together and do the right thing and form a coalition or national government.

And if that means the parties actually merging some time during their term of office then so be it, even if that gives Sinn Fein and the rising parties of the left a free run to become the opposition and alternative government.

Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin and Michael McGrath celebrate at the general election 2016 count at the City Hall in Cork

At least half of Irish voters are backing the idea that it’s time this country was rid of having two parties who differ over little, other than why they were actually formed from the ashes of revolution 100 years ago.

The irony is that a ‘Fianna Gael’ coalition would be taking over with the lowest percentage total of votes since the two parties were founded in the 1930s.
Time was, and it is not so long ago, that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael gobbled up 90 per cent of the first preference votes in a general election.

On Friday, the pair got less than 50 per cent of the poll, yet they have the chance – the only chance – to form a stable team to lead the country for five years in a time of global economic turmoil.

The Fianna Fáil grass roots may resist the call for a coalition, fearing the rise of Sinn Fein on their left – but remember, the party will have 15 to 20 new TDs in the parliamentary party.

Issey Ross (age 6) hugs her grandfather Shane Ross

They, especially, will not be willing to go back to the people before they have had the chance to establish themselves as TDs, get stuck into Dáil and constituency work, and put a structure in place to serve their constituents.

Equally, FG TDs, when they meet, will notice that around 20 of the colleagues from the last general election are not with them anymore.

Do you think they will fancy going back to the people – at the risk of another cull in three months?

And the new Independents won’t be in a hurry for another election either.

With a salary approaching €100,000  for five years, decent expenses and a chance for each of them to claim a ‘leader’s allowance’ as well, being a TD for five years could be worth close to €750,000 per man and woman for the full life of a Dáil.

No-one who can claim all that money is going to be pushing for another costly spin around the campaign block in 2016.

What happens now is that the new Dáil meets on Thursday, March 10. The first item of business is the election of a Ceann Comhairle, who would usually be a senior member of the previous Dáil.

It does not need to be – it could be one of the new Independents, depending on whether any prospective government wanted to take them out of the voting equation.

But with ‘Fianna Gael’ having somewhere in the region of 100 seats when the counts finally end, they would be unlikely to give away this plum post.

After he or she is elected, the Ceann Comhairle calls for proposals for Taoiseach. Enda Kenny – if he survives until then – Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams would be put forward.

Roisin Shorthall celebrates with her grand nephew, Dara after toping the poll in the Dublin north west constituency 

But on the current Dáil numbers, each would be voted down as it is impossible to see any party leader carrying that vote without a prior deal.

This is what may well happen, giving Fianna Fáil, in particular, the chance to say, ‘well we voted Enda Kenny down’.

If no Taoiseach is elected, Kenny would stay in charge, and the outgoing ministers would stay at their desks, with some of them doubling up in ministries where the office bearer had lost his or her seat.

Enda Kenny would then call for a meeting of the Dáil for, most likely, Tuesday the 15th, the famous Ides of March on which Julius Caesar met his gory end.

It might be the chance of a resurrection in Irish politics, however, for it would be on the weekend in between the meetings of the new Dáil that ‘the National Interest’ would take over.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would come under pressure from business interests and, quietly, from our European partners to cut a deal and form a Government.

Some supporters of the two parties would also be telling their parliamentarians, behind the scenes, that a Grand Coalition would keep Sinn Fein away from the levers of power for the full five years.

The last seats still to be filled today would have a big bearing on those negotiations and consultations between the two parties.

If the final result was something around 47/37 Fine Gael to Fianna Fail, FF could present a deal to their grass roots as something close to a meeting of equals and press hard for Micheál Martin to have a shot at being a revolving Taoiseach.

But if those vital last seats – the ones that will be decided by the transfer of votes that originally belonged to Independents – broke FG’s way and the score between the parties was something like 51/35, well then it could be very different.

It would be a clear majority/minority arrangement and the FF members might not buy that, given the bloody beatings the electorate regularly dishes out to minor coalition partners like Labour, the Greens and the PDs.

It would then be up to Martin to persuade them that Ireland mattered more than FF and do the right thing for the country by ending the civil war era forever, or supporting a minority FG-led government of disparate groups and independents.  It’s unlikely Enda Kenny would still be the leader of such an arrangement.

The 2016 election is over, well the first one anyway. But the wheeling and dealing is far from finished and may not end until the mould of Irish politics for the last 80 years is broken.