Next Dáil a horror show with an interchangeable cast

Election campaigning hasn’t started yet, of course. Oh, dear no, whatever gave you that idea? It’s only a coincidence that the Coalition is going to great lengths to create the illusion that the recovery is in full swing

Next Dáil a horror show with an interchangeable cast

Enda vs Chaos — that’s the winter electoral blockbuster coming your way.

Well, that’s what the Fine Gael script-writers hope you’ll buy as they paint mild-mannered man of steel Captain Kenny as the only thing standing between Ireland and the anarchy of the Shifty Shinners, Loathsome Lefties, and Dizzy Independents — a bit like Mad Max, but if he wore lycra and went around on a pedal bike.

Unfortunately for the party strategists, voters view the choice more like Alien vs Predator, as they hope that neither one really wins.

It is a bit of dilemma for the electorate.

“Well, Predator represents the change option, but then Alien has a more nuanced stance on childcare…”

Not that the election campaign has started, of course — oh, dear no, whatever gave you that idea? Surely not just because the Government has abandoned any pretence at a legislative agenda in favour of soft PR stunts?

And so, Captain Kenny lured us all to Heuston Station to unveil the much vaunted, and entirely underwhelming, grand capital investment plan so that we could hear the tannoy announce: “The political bribe now arriving on platform one is the desperation express calling at all stops to polling day.”

It was billed as a €27bn bonanza marking the end of the gloom and the beginning of a new boom.

In reality, it was a bunch of already announced initiatives reheated; the expected spending for the next five years stretched out by extending the period covered to six years; coupled with a few snippets of tin polished-up to look like silver.

In reality, the €27bn economic boost will only add a rather less exciting €200m to capital investment next year, and €250m extra in 2017.

Still, the Coalition went to incredible lengths to try to create the illusion that the recovery was in full swing — even providing a lavish spread on Platform One which included strawberries dipped in chocolate.

The assembled press corps stood back in amazement, as we had not seen such delicacies at such an event since before the darkness of the troika descended on the country.

The media all agreed it was a shocking waste of taxpayers’ money — just as soon as we had scoffed all the strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Whoever came up with the wheeze of holding the event at one of Dublin’s busiest railway stations had clearly not factored in Enda’s inability to turn up anywhere on time, and so things over-ran to such an extent that while Ministers Brendan Howlin and Paschal Donohue were giving their speeches on the platform, a train pulled in a few feet behind them, drowning out their words as it delivered its passengers.

Now, just about every train I have ever been on in this country has featured a loud drunk man, usually in a track suit, swigging a can of lager in one hand, while clutching on to four more with the other, but, unfortunately, he was not in the carriage that pulled-up next to the ministers and so did not bring a much-needed snatch of the reality of Irish life to their midst.

One of the reannounced announcements used to pad out the capital plans was the €1bn for flood defences, but at least this was timely, given the enormous amount of leaking undertaken by the Coalition ahead of this PR stunt and its follow-up sort-of-generous-Budget.

There is a growing clamour — well, actually, panic — within Fine Gael that the Budget should be used a spring-board for a snap November election before they lose control of the political agenda over the winter months and Leo Varadkar, once again, loses control of the trolley crisis while blaming everyone else for the most predictable of shameful seasonal occurrences.

November would prove a credibility problem for Mr Kenny, as he is continually banging on about an election next year, but as the opposition are constantly insisting he is so rubbish he should go to the country immediately, they would not really have much of a leg to stand on if they started accusing him of cutting and running.

But, whenever the general election is called for, it will probably just be Enda Vs Chaos: Episode One: the Menace of Phantoms, as the outcome is set to be as messy as the chocolate stains left on the platter by those lovely strawberries as an anti-politics mood grips the country and the choice of mainstream parties merely multiplies.

Private polling by the parties shows Independents making the running across the country, which could see as many as 40 non-aligned members of the next Dáil representing a third of the chamber.

It is very likely the next (minority?) administration will be Fine Gael-led, but the party will be lucky to get much above 50 seats, with maybe half a dozen Labourites clambering back into their own lifeboat on election day, which will leave the Coalition well short of the 79 seats needed for a majority.

The current cabinet
The current cabinet

While Fianna Fáil top brass may well be tempted to slip back into the leather seats of chauffeur-driven limos as ministers, a rare burst of democracy has broken across the party and any programme for government must be endorsed by the grassroots next time.

This makes it hard to envisage a formal deal with Fine Gael, as it is more likely Fianna Fáil will back a minority administration on a vote-by-vote basis, claiming to be doing so for the sake of national stability, but in reality waiting for the optimum moment to bring the Blueshirts crashing down in the year of the revolution’s centenary.

At Heuston Station, it was not so much The Little Engine That Could but The Little Edna That Could which Fine Gael handlers wanted to project as the image of a Government back on track after so many moments when it seemed to have gone off the rails.

But despite attempting to present the nation with 27 billion reasons to re-elect the Coalition, it has almost zero chance of returning in its current form.

The fact that the next Dáil’s make-up is likely to be so unstable there will be a second general election within 12-18 months is dangerous enough, but factor in that Mr Kenny has been forced to pre-announce his resignation sooner rather than later in the next term, and party rivals will be openly manoeuvring to strike against him, and it looks like the script next time out will actually be the nightmare horror genre of Chaos vs Chaos.

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