Air of inevitability on government make-up

There is an air of inevitability hanging over the make-up of the next government.

Air of inevitability on government make-up

But political bigwigs needed only to step inside the front doors of count centres to gauge how the age-old tradition of rifts and splits threatens to overshadow the mood for reconciliation almost a century on from civil war.

Clipboard in hand, law student and Fianna Fáil activist Patrick Dunne dismissed the notion of a coalition as he kept a close eye on the Louth tallies in Dundalk.

From Blackrock, just outside the town, the 20-year-old represents the new generation of the party and he insists his opposition to an unprecedented alliance with Fine Gael is not based on past enmities, but current policies. “I don’t buy it, to be honest,” Mr Dunne said of the mooted grand coalition.

“And that’s not some civil war throwback — it’s a fundamental difference of ideology. Fine Gael has always been associated with the ‘haves’ and Fianna Fáil has always tried to protect the ‘have nots’.”

The young politico warned he will not vote for a coalition with Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.

“I think we should be responsible, and if that means supporting a minority government, that’s okay. And then go to the people and try to the lead the next government,” he said.

John McGahon is steeped in Fine Gael tradition, with a family history in representative politics that stretches back even further than the party’s foundation.

His uncle Brendan was a long-serving Fine Gael TD for Louth.

Now a member of the county council, the fresh-faced politician believes the once unimaginable coalition may be the only way to deliver national stability.

But he suggested the onus lies with Fianna Fáil decision-makers.

“In terms of the point of view of the country, and the dire need for a stable government, I think it would be the duty of Fianna Fáil to go into government with Fine Gael, purely because we will be the two largest parties after this election.”

Mr McGahon said if a deal fails there will be another election in May.

“It would certainly be a different dynamic,” he said. “The official end of the civil war politics.”

John McHugh, 68, and from Castlebar, was tallying votes at Enda Kenny’s Mayo constituency in the Mayo Convention Centre.

A withered Kenny sticker which had seen many doorsteps was peeling from his jacket.

He has supported Fine Gael for 40 years but said that in the long term, coalition with Fianna Fáil is inevitable.

“But I did not think it was going to be this time,” he said.

Mr McHugh prefers a partnership with Fianna Fáil than new elections but warned the larger parties are afraid of Sinn Féin taking over if given free rein on the opposition benches.

“I think politicians are pragmatic, their supporters are not,” he said.

A Fianna Fáil canvasser was less positive with this stark warning: “I will never vote again if they [merge].”

Thomas Holmes, a Fianna Fáil supporter from Ballina and a full-time farmer, would not agree to the coalition.

“The grassroots of Fianna Fáil would not have that,” he said.

“We stand for different policies. Fianna Fáil was always for the working man and the small class farmer in the west of Ireland and Fine Gael was no good to the working man.”

In Cork City Hall, Mary O’Leary, a long-time Fianna Fáil voter, said a “grand coalition” may be the only option for the country but it is not ideal.

“I am speaking for myself on this one,” she said.

“Ideally, I wouldn’t like to go into coalition with Fine Gael, I have to say, but we also have to respect what the electorate wants.

“I don’t think the electorate will appreciate us going back to create an unstable government.

“There are a lot of people in the party who would be but, I personally wouldn’t be averse to it.

“But before I would like to see what other options are available to us.”

Fine Gael supporter Shane O’Callaghan said it “could be worse”.

He said: “It’s not ideal, I would obviously prefer it to Fine Gael/Labour coalition but that’s not going to happen.

“If it’s the only stable government then I’d would not have a problem with it as long as Fine Gael are the bigger party and are the dominant party — that it’s a Fine Gael-driven majority cabinet which is looking like it will be. Not ideal but it could be worse.”

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