Cute-hoorism, political botox and one eye to next general election

Does Micheál Martin not see the irony in all this big talk of Dáil reform, all the while shirking what would be the biggest reform of all — a coalition with Fine Gael, writes Alison O’Connor

Cute-hoorism, political botox and one eye to next general election

What a charade Fianna Fáil is carrying on with at present. When you see the outraged political virgin act they’ve taken to pedalling it’s hard to know whether to laugh or bang your head against a wall.

You would think we all came down in the last shower and there before us was this delicate political flower, full of injured innocence; all overwhelmed by the pressure it is being put under by the mean big boys. Come on. This is just too hard to take.

These FF guys would buy and sell the lot of us, so it’s a very hard swallow to hear their squealing about unfair tactics and how seriously they take their mandate. As the time has gone on since the general election it has felt like we’re being fed a load of rhetorical manure.

Nobody does a better altar boy impression that Micheal Martin and only he could have stood in the Dáil on Wednesday and said the priority of others had been “power rather than policy”.

He decried the “spin and hype” which has been circulating since the election and the “never-ending stream of unattributed comments designed to influence perception rather than fairly reflect reality”, which had further damaged politics.

There could be no trust and no real change if this approach to politics continued, he thundered. The “briefings and manipulation” of opinion has to stop if there is to be any reasonable prospect of moving things forward.” Lol, as the youngsters would say.

After all it is Fianna Fáil who wrote the full manual when it comes to all of these approaches, and, as we saw from the masterful general election campaign, they have certainly not lost their touch.

The FF’ers are raging at FG coming out last week and ruling out supporting a minority FF Government. They claim to be fuming at what they see as the utter arrogance of this. But this is how the numbers stack up.

It’s the same in how FF keep insisting that they got a particular mandate in the election and that does not involve coalition with Fine Gael. Actually this is simply how they have chosen to interpret this mandate.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

If they were in a different mood they could very easily spin it another way. Actually it feels as if many in FF have transported themselves to a parallel political reality.

Fine Gael, on the other hand, can be like political pygmies when it comes to this stuff. They like to believe otherwise but they are just not as good at it. They do their best to copy FF but their superiority complex frequently gets in the way.

They lack the native cunning of the FF’ers, and of course, the fact that FF have held power for so much longer than they have, and know their way so easily around the system. Fine Gael had been allowing them away with loads as they reeled from the absolute mess they made of the election campaign, and the uncertainty over the party leadership.

But there was something hugely satisfying in seeing them steal a march on Fianna Fáil this week with Enda Kenny diving straight in and offering Micheál a “partnership Government”.

This followed on FG smothering the independents with kindness and sandwiches in exhaustive talks. One of my favourite anecdotes from those interminable sessions involves Michael Healy Rae.

By all accounts hardly a full 60 seconds passed where he did not have his mobile phone to his ear talking to his constituents in Kerry, to the annoyance of the others assembled. At one point, apparently, he asked Enda Kenny a question and while the Taoiseach was answering Healy-Rae was nodding but also continuing a call to a Kerry voter.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has been all over the airwaves talking about new eras and new ways of doing things and new ways of listening; the list goes on. He’s certainly recovered himself since his Irish Water gaffe.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney

It’s all about extending the hand of friendship. In response, FF has simply bristled and said that their party membership, now big players in any decision to go into coalition, would simply never opt for Fine Gael. Well that’s certainly all the party members have been told by the elected members for the past five weeks.

The emphatic message to the rank and file from TDs has been to tell them that this is an option and they would be mad to even consider it. Micheál Martin has really backed himself into a tight corner on this one.

It obviously does depend on your perspective but ultimately if a grand coalition fails to materialise and a jelly-like minority government situation occurs, which is destined for failure, it will be seen to have come about because Fianna Fáil put its own interest first.

God knows I’m not buying the FG rhetoric of acting wholly in the interest of the country. It’s approach to re-election showed just how out of touch it was with so many people. Everything Enda Kenny does now has to be tinged with a serious dose of self preservation.

If there is another general election soon, Fine Gael would undoubtedly change him as leader. So of all the people in Leinster House who do not wish to go to the country again Enda Kenny is at the head of that particular queue.

In the Dáil Micheál Martin also said research had shown that up to a third of governments in Europe since 1945 have had minority support in parliament. But turning ourselves overnight into Danish and Swedish models will take more than a nip and a tuck and a shot of political botox. It will take lots and lots of practise.

Independent Alliance members outside Leinster House
Independent Alliance members outside Leinster House

One of my favourite lines in the lengthy document drawn up by Fine Gael, following the talks with the independents, states that key to their approach in a new form of government must be the concept of “good faith and no surprises”. That would certainly present challenges to “cute hoorism” which has been so long a feature of our politics that it is almost impossible to imagine it disappearing.

Does Micheál Martin not see the irony in all this big talk of Dáil reform, all the while shirking what would be the biggest reform of all —a coalition with Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil has presented no legitimate argument thus far why it should stay out.

Surely the opportunity to be Taoiseach in the second half of the Government’s term presents a massive opportunity. That is unless, of course, you are trying to be too clever by half and your tactics are centered around the results of the next election rather than the one we have just had. We all know whose interest that is in.

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