Daniel McConnell: After 139 days we may have a government or lots more chaos

Daniel McConnell: After 139 days we may have a government or lots more chaos

It has only taken 139 days, but now it looks as if we will get a government.

Or will we?

Daniel McConnell: After 139 days we may have a government or lots more chaos
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, arrives at Government Buildings to discuss outstanding issues. (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

Will the Greens be able to hit their super-majority of 66% or two-thirds or will they fall short?

It is pretty clear going into today that soon to be ex-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the man who is set to replace him, Micheál Martin, have been able to sell the controversial Programme for Government to their respective flocks.

But the story for the embattled Eamon Ryan has been far less clear cut.

At the start of the week, amid recrimination and notable opposition to the deal, there was mounting concern the Green party’s grassroots would vote the deal down.

“Our members have really resented this sort of high-handed talk from the other parties about the need for a government and our immaturity,” said one Green TD.

“The scars of 2011 still linger long in many of our memories. We really fear getting eaten alive in government,” said another.

Ryan is clearly not universally loved by his party colleagues, as reflected in the move by his own deputy leader to oust him and, even if he withstands her challenge, he cuts a much-weakened figure than the one who stood victorious on election weekend in February.

The nervousness in the earlier part of the week was replaced on Thursday with a palpable sense of cautious optimism among some of the key players on all sides.

The sense was that the Yes side in the Greens had worked hard in swaying the moderates within the party and encouraging them to get the vote out.

More sceptical sources in the larger parties were more pessimistic.

“You just never know with the Greens. Are they around long enough to accurately call the mood? I am not so sure,” said one senior Fianna Fáil TD.

For Fine Gael, despite some internal grumbling, the deal has been endorsed by the parliamentary party and with its college vote system it will therefore pass comfortably.

Daniel McConnell: After 139 days we may have a government or lots more chaos
Leo Varadkar during his live address outside the Government Buildings in Dublin. -Julien Behal/PA Wire-

Fine Gael expect to know their results first.

The counting of their ballots will commence at around 1pm today with a result expected by mid to late afternoon.

Fianna Fáil’s ballot closed last night but with their one member, one vote system they will have many more ballots to count and while they are due to begin counting at 9am - a result is not expected before 5pm.

As for the Greens, their ballot does not close until 12pm midday today with counting to begin immediately and a result expected by about 7pm.

Should all parties pass the deal, a full day’s sitting of Dáil Eireann will take place in the Convention Centre in Dublin which will see Martin elected Taoiseach, the first person from Cork to assume that office since Jack Lynch.

Varadkar would assume the post of Tánaiste.

The day is also expected to see the nomination of the 15 members of the government, the attorney general and three super junior ministers who are entitled to attend Cabinet.

As we know, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have six Cabinet seats each while the Greens will have three.

It is believed that despite Green demands for the right to nominate an Attorney General, Martin as the incoming Taoiseach has won the right, leading many to suspect he will appoint Jim O’Callaghan to the post.

By doing so, it would enable him to appoint Darragh O’Brien to Cabinet as the other Dubliner.

Current Tanaiste Simon Coveney is also set to retain his place at Cabinet as is Martin’s running mate Michael McGrath, which would mean Cork South-Central would have three Cabinet ministers representing the constituency.

Daniel McConnell: After 139 days we may have a government or lots more chaos
Picture: Jim Coughlan.

All of that is based on the deal being agreed. But what if it all goes south?

Should it be rejected, in the words of one current minister, we would be “in real political crisis territory”.

Referencing the need to pass legislation to continue the existence of the Special Criminal Court by the end of the month, the minister’s view is correct.

There are no easy alternatives to the proposed government.

Should the Greens reject the deal, it would in turn mean Fine Gael would walk off the pitch as they said they need a third party present in order to form a stable majority government.

Such a turn of events would mean pressure would come on Martin and Fianna Fáil to open talks with Sinn Féin if a second election is to be avoided.

This is because for a workable administration to be formed, two of the three big parties need to come together.

Would the failure of the deal give Martin sufficient political cover to walk back from his unequivocal statements that he would not talk to Mary Lou McDonald’s party?

Possibly. But whatever the disquiet about working with Fine Gael and the Greens, there is a large section of the party who would rail against any relationship with the Shinners.

We will know by the end of today which version of chaos awaits us.

 

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