Government formation talks - No deal thus far a cause for alarm

Like the tide, the prospect of Fine Gael forming a minority government by Thursday, a deadline set more in hope than in stone by Simon Coveney, receded before talks had even begun yesterday morning between Fine Gael ministers and a group of six Independent TDs whose votes are vital to prop up the tottering party. 

Government formation talks - No deal thus far a cause for alarm

Similarly, any likelihood has faded of a vote when the Dáil resumes tomorrow that would realise Enda Kenny’s ambition of making history as the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to lead successive administrations, a distinction which he seems sure to achieve sooner or later.

The latest obstacle overshadowing these negotiations was erected by Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, a member of the Independent Alliance, who refused to put a time limit on the talks, dashing cold water on Fine Gael hopes of wrapping up an early deal for votes and a stable minority government facilitated by Fianna Fáil. Seemingly, after clinching a presumed deal with Independent TDs, the Fine Gael plan was to negotiate a separate voting arrangement with rural TDs.

Another hurdle to be cleared if hopes of hammering out a quick and easy deal were to be clinched was focused on the tireless campaign waged by Independent TD John Halligan for the provision of cardiac services in the South East that would serve the Waterford, Wexford, and south Kilkenny region. According to the Waterford TD, his fellow members of the Alliance were backing his stance on cardiac services and said that if a deal could not be delivered the group would not support Fine Gael. For his part, he has told his five colleagues that he would not stand in their way if they wished to join a minority government.

With the prospect of juicy ministerial jobs and perks dangling before them it is a tantalising prospect. No doubt that explains why outgoing Jobs Minister Richard Bruton was so upbeat about the prospect of Fine Gael forming a government when he arrived for the talks. Yet, people would be well advised to remain cautious because this process could follow much the same pattern as the drawn out wheeling and dealing that went on with Fianna Fáil. Talks aimed at recruiting potential cabinet and junior ministers risk being dragged out and taking on a life of their own, lasting for days if not weeks before the tortuous process is finally completed.

The alternative is another general election, something no politician in his right mind would favour as the outlook is likely to be more of the same if not worse.

Such a result would be equally anathema to most voters. On the face of it, they seem to fall into two distinct classes. On one hand, there are those who have long grown tired of the political mess thrown up by the ballot box. On the other, one occasionally encounters those who claim to be hugely entertained by the whole affair, which has now gone on for 67 days since the election results became known. It has to be said, however, that most right-minded people regard the fact that this benighted county has been left without a stable government for such a long time as less a source of amusement than a cause of increasing alarm, for which politicians will not be thanked.

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