Government Formation: Sun obliges but cynics spot storm clouds ahead

Government Formation: Sun obliges but cynics spot storm clouds ahead
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste and Simon Coveney speaking to the media at Government Buildings yesterday afternoon. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

It’s rare that the weather holds up for big events in Ireland — even the Pope couldn’t escape a torrential summer rainfall — so it was assumed that yesterday would see many a parade rained on, both literal and metaphorical.

However, the day Civil War politics ended apparently saw some divine intervention as the sun beat down on Merrion St.

Those who predicted storms ahead needn’t have worried. Sun or no sun, the practically giddy disposition of the elected representatives from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael milling around would’ve parted the clouds.

First out of the gate was taoiseach-in-waiting Micheál Martin, like the cat who got the cream. 

Looking a little tired after a few late nights, and a few years of struggle to make sure he got the top spot, it was clear the Fianna Fáil leader was delighted with the document, making sure to give the nod to his new partners in
government by using his first public statement of the day to mention the climate emergency. 

Likewise, the usually sunny Paschal Donohoe stated his delight, while measured-but-pleased Simon Coveney heralded a new day in Irish politics.

In reality, though, the weather was the only bright spot, as Leinster House was noticeably muted and resigned.

TDs and senators from all parties milled around offering pleasantries and relief that the talks had ended, but little in the way of enthusiasm after the 125-page document was released.

Some openly worried about their membership votes, others for their future position in the party, and more warned of the Mary Lou McDonald-shaped spectre in the future opposition.

Reflective of the mood in Dublin 2, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan conceded that his negotiators had not managed to get the Occupied Territories Bill over the line, but he was keen to emphasise that the Greens had put their stamp on this programme — no easy feat considering the pressure on the smallest party to compromise on their most closely held beliefs.

Some surmised that his first appearance might be a sign of things to come, with the Green Party appointed the bearers of bad news, but keen to let the country know they’d tried.

Anyone listening to those involved would think we’d been given a fool-proof blueprint of how we’re going to claw our way out of recession and find the pot at the end of the rainbow for good measure.

One hundred and twenty-eight days since the election, amid a pandemic, and after five weeks of detailed and painstaking negotiations, the programme for government itself contains 132  mentions of ‘review’, seven
commissions, six taskforces, four committees, three citizens’ assemblies, three agencies, two working groups, two forums, two councils, two courts, and an expert group.

Negotiations were not easy, the three parties are ideologically opposed on Ireland’s biggest challenges, and hours were dedicated to debate.

The optimists among us might proffer that the parties were taking the biggest issues back to the people, or letting the experts decide.

The cynics, however, wouldn’t be blamed for claiming they heard the sound of a can being kicked down Merrion St.

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