Deals are the hallmarks of democracy Irish-style

Whether we like it or not, cutting deals is central to how Irish democracy works. And this week is prime deal-cutting time. 
Deals are the hallmarks of democracy Irish-style

With Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil still officially saying they will not consider coalition, both parties may target Independents and smaller parties to put together a workable government that does not include their rival.

Fianna Fáil sources said last night no phonecalls have yet been made, while senior Fine Gael figures said it is likely Taoiseach Enda Kenny will set up his own negotiating team after today’s cabinet meeting.

However, with an intense spotlight now turning on what the likely six Independent Alliance TDs, three Social Democrats, two Greens, 14 unaligned Independents and two Healy Raes are looking for, what exactly will the two largest parties in Ireland face when they eventually sit down to talk to their would-be saviours from themselves.

And unsurprisingly, at this stage it appears that the abolition of Irish Water, new roads, reopened hospitals, rural jobs, more local doctors and genuine Dáil reform will be the price of power.

Independent Alliance leader Shane Ross last night told the Irish Examiner the likelihood of a minority government is an excellent result because it will enhance the powers of the Dáil compared to cabinet.

He said his coalition, if called, would seek its Alliance Charter for Change to be implemented. It wants new anti-cronyism rules, Oireachtas reform and the protection of the vulnerable.

Chief among the other Independents will be the Kerry TD duo of Michael and Danny Healy Rae, whose father Jackie controversially brought millions of euro into the kingdom by supporting boom-time Fianna Fáil governments — a deal some see as warranted and others view in a far less positive light.

Michael said last night he and Danny have “been contacted by nobody, it’s early days yet and we are looking at prolonged negotiations”, but has previously called for job investment, farming supports and improved broadband.

Next door, in Cork South West, Independent TD Michael Collins said he is willing to do a deal with “Micheál Martin or Enda Kenny or anyone else because we have to run a country”, saying he has been speaking to other Independents too.

“I have two words that they would have to discuss with me: West Cork”, he said, noting the need for more jobs, giving rural development Leader programmes control over their own funds and increased help for the fishing industry.

Among other Independents, Tipperary’s ex-Fianna Fáil TD Mattie McGrath will ask for local borough councils to be restored as “local democracy has been shut down”, the re-opening of St Michael’s Hospital, a road bypass for Tipperary town and the “abolishment of Irish Water”, saying: “Tipperary must get its share of the cake.”

Roscommon-Galway Independent and ex-Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten said he would not only reference the need for radical change in the Dáil. Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan — whose predecessor Tony Gregory struck the 1982 Gregory deal with Charlie Haughey — said she is open to a “listening exercise”, while Clare’s new single- issue TD Michael Harty will push for rural GP investment.

One of the Social Democrats’ three TD co-leaders, Catherine Murphy, told the Irish Examiner last night that like Independents, no one has yet sought support.

However, the TD said while she and fellow co-leaders Roisin Shortall and Stephen Donnelly will meet in Leinster House today to discuss strategy, it is “unlikely” they will support the larger parties.

Greens leader Eamon Ryan said his first choice is a seemingly unimaginable multi-coalition of Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin-Labour- Social Democrats-AAA/PBP-Left-leaning Independents and the Greens. However, he said anyone addressing climate change, Brexit and the Mediterranean migrants’ crisis alongside Greens housing and transport national plans deserves consideration.

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