Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael need to get their act together

When the next government is eventually formed, a number of Fianna Fáil TDs will end up looking very silly indeed.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael need to get their act together
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney

As reported in this newspaper on Tuesday morning, Fine Gael is to invite Fianna Fáil into talks in the coming days with a view to trying to form a government.

There has been a significant shift within Fine Gael towards doing a deal with the old enemy with the political corpse Enda Kenny reportedly willing to offer up to half the seats at cabinet in order to remain in office.

“We are talking 50:50 split here, genuine partnership in government, because that is what people have voted for,” one senior source said.

Fine Gael is also reportedly ready to accept the principle of rotating the position of taoiseach in order to form a government, but has said the process would need to be managed successfully.

With the farce of talks with Independents now done, it is now up to the two major parties to try and get their act together, once today’s charade in the Dail concludes, or we will be back to the polls before the summer.

That is the only alternative now to the old enemies putting aside their century-long animosities and putting the national interest first.

That job has been made more difficult by the rather trenchant statements from several leading Fianna Fáil deputies who have railed against the idea of a “grand coalition”.

At least eight of Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin’s most senior TDs have specifically ruled out any potential deal with Fine Gael — potentially risking a second election being called.

High-profile TDs Barry Cowen, Willie O’Dea, Sean Fleming, Robert Troy, and Dara Calleary have in the last 24 hours repeated the party’s position that the prospect of a grand coalition is not on the cards. Eamon Ó Cuív, Niall Collins, and Thomas Byrne have also said there is no possibility of any deal with Kenny’s party over the coming weeks.

Limerick City TD O’Dea said he remains opposed to it as he does not believe it would necessarily be a stable partnership. He said he gave assurances to people voting for him that they would not go into such a coalition and he was not prepared to renege on that.

Laois TD Sean Fleming also spoke out vehemently against the idea as did new Kildare North TD James Lawless.

But the matter was complicated by the fact that Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney appearing to pour cold water on the idea.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney

He said lots of people are “uncomfortable” about the idea of a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition and that Fine Gael would not go into government at any cost. On the idea of a rotating taoiseach, he said he is “not a fan” and he agreed with party colleague Leo Varadkar that many people in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil do not trust each other.

Enda Kenny yesterday held a two-hour meeting with his ministers, where he outlined his intention to reach out to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, despite the misgivings of some of his top lieutenants.

Kenny is in a desperate bid to cling on to power, but there is a growing realisation that he may be the price of peace and have to relinquish the very reigns of power to see the grand coalition come to pass.

Given such opposition within his own top ranks, Martin has a big question to ask of himself. Does he risk his own position as leader to try and secure up to seven seats at the cabinet table and the chance to be taoiseach?

He would have to get the idea passed by a special ard fheis and there is no guarantee the grassroots would stomach it.

Given the state of the country when Fianna Fáil left office in 2011, that they are even in this position to be relevant again is remarkable.

Today will pass and will quickly be forgotten.

By the end of the day, the corpse will be taoiseach in a caretaker capacity only and much work is needed to see him regain his cherished throne. Many believe it is beyond him, but only time will tell.

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