If the current political drama was a movie, it would be if not Back To The Future then at least Back To The Past.
And not a very long ago or impressive past at that.
Last night, a story that has been told repeatedly since the election, played out yet again and will dominate in its now-traditional confusing manner of semantics, contradiction, denial and subterfuge over the coming days.
As speculation again mounted over whether any decision would come from another “crucial” Dáil taoiseach nomination vote next week, Independents once more called for Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin to sit down with them to discuss all options. Again.
The Independent Alliance, again, was front and centre of this call, with the six-strong TD group led by Shane Ross saying in a statement that it considers the issue to be “a matter of urgency”. Just like the last time, and the time before that.
Mr Kenny responded, again, by saying he is open to discussing all options, provided it is just about equal partnership.
And Mr Martin, again, said he will also meet. Only —and you may already have guessed this — not with Mr Kenny and only if a minority government option is on the table in place of an equal partnership.
If it all sounds so painfully familiar, it’s because it is.
The back-and-forth letters, public statements, race to live microphones and TV cameras to be first to fake sincerity over the “national interest” (but never narrow self-interest), and the merry-go-round nature of what is happening in the Dáil right now is the exact same dance since February 26’s election result, with only a slightly different tune.
Just like in the aftermath of the election itself, in the apparently genuine talks with Independents before March 10’s first stalemate Dáil taoiseach nomination vote; the mirror-image sequel last Wednesday and the subsequent 45- minute and 10-minute warning meetings between Mr Kenny and Mr Martin — everything changes, then nothing changes. Again.
Like a movie you’ve seen one too many times, you know the outcome of that oh-so-complicated plot before it even reaches its first twist.
There is, however, a potential — if only that — difference this time around, a modern remake if you will, of a silver screen classic that forces through a few plot adaptations in the hope of keeping viewers, or in this case voters, interested.
While both leaders are being backed to the hilt by their parties, some rumblings of discontent are apparent. A number of Fine Gael ministers yesterday gave detailed briefings to the Irish Examiner, and others, about how a possible road map to a minority government could still happen — if only someone could get Mr Kenny and Mr Martin back into the same room.
Equal partnership government is still the first option, they say, as if reading from a prepared script, but... just off the top of their heads... a 60-seat minority government of 50 Fine Gaelers, Michael Lowry’s unsolicited help, at least five of the Independent Alliance, the Healy-Raes, Katherine Zappone, and Maureen O’Sullivan could also occur.
It would also, they add, be backed by... gee I dunno... a mooted loose 12-TD opposition alliance of Labour, the Social Democrats, and the Greens, who would gain extra speaking rights under a reformed Dáil by cobbling together. This could be enough to convince Fianna Fáil a Fine Gael minority government is inevitable.
Some Fianna Fáil TDs, meanwhile, are making their own noises. They absolutely back Mr Martin, they insist, but... well... maybe a deal with Fine Gael can be struck after all.
After at least six Fianna Fáil TDs raised the same prospect at Thursday’s parliamentary party meeting, finance spokesperson Michael McGrath — who, of course, is always right behind his constituency colleague Mr Martin — last night broke his silence.
He’s happy to talk to Fine Gael, he said, before adding rather aptly that “the arguments are circular, we’re going around in circles at the moment”.
It’s a hard point to argue.
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