Government could get unexpected boost from Lowry scenario

Despite the controversy, the question over whether the coalition could turn to Independent TD Michael Lowry if it falls short of an overall majority could, in fact, help beef up Government support, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Government could get unexpected boost from Lowry scenario

Since rumours first aired on Friday that Fine Gael has whispered sweet nothings to a handful of Independent TDs — specifically Mr Lowry, Noel Grealish, Michael Healy Rae, and Denis Naughten — about joining forces after the election, government ministers have been keen to say they want nothing of the sort.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan was first out of the blocks on Friday, telling reporters at his party’s ard fheis the Fine Gael-Labour coalition will “make sure the numbers stack up” when asked whether Independents will be needed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan told UTV Ireland that same evening it will be “extremely difficult” for the current two-party government to get to 79 seats by itself, strongly suggesting Independent help could be required but saying this is not desired, before Taoiseach Enda Kenny hit home the message behind the message that weekend.

Over a series of media doorsteps and radio interviews on Saturday and Sunday, Mr Kenny repeatedly said Fine Gael and Labour’s only focus is on ensuring the Government is re-elected.

Fine Gael is expected to get in the mid 60s at best and Labour hopes to hit double figures. However, with polls suggesting the parties will fall short of the 79-seats needed Mr Kenny passed up several opportunities to rule out needing Independent support, and specifically support from Mr Lowry.

That position could be seen as the coalition shooting itself in the foot by failing to stamp out the Lowry issue before it became a problem.

It has been followed by 48 hours of government ministers dismissing the prospect while emphasising the same phrase put forward by Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan of needing to ensure Fine Gael and Labour are returned by themselves .

However, the recent all-too-public musings could also be interpreted in a far more cynical way — not that anyone would ever think cynicism plays a role just weeks out from a general election. By Mr Kenny failing to rule out Mr Lowry — the most controversial of the Independent TD options outlined on Friday — as a potential post-election option, government supporters may be encouraged to ensure this dilemma is not needed in the first place by redoubling efforts to get both parties over the line by themselves.

And, if Fine Gael-Labour still need support from a small number of Independents like Noel Grealish — who has backed the Government in every key vote in this Dáil anyway — or Renua, Mr Kenny can justifiably say the Lowry affair was simply a media misunderstanding and was never genuinely considered.

In addition, by not fully extinguishing the Lowry issue quickly, attention from real issues has shifted. These include our health service officially being among the worst in Europe, or the housing crisis, failing to receive the air time they need with an election just around the corner.

Despite the controversy the potential deal with the Tipperary TD is causing, all of that spells good news for a government keen to talk about a macro economic recovery without focusing too much on the uncomfortable micro economic details.

Just because it has been strongly suggested Fine Gael-Labour could jump into bed with Michael Lowry doesn’t mean it will ever really happen.

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