Yesterday was billed as D-Day. The day it could all go right or all go wrong, writes Daniel McConnell
The signs, from early on, were encouraging.
The Fianna Fáil team on their way to the plush meeting room of the Provost’s Library struck a positive note.
The ever-impressive Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath said “the talks were progressing well”.
McGrath said his party was “anxious” to conclude the work as quickly as possible and facilitate the formation of a minority government.
He said the public were getting edgy and frustrated at the slow pace but he was keen that “thorny issues” such as Irish Water be dealt with to a point where his party can support a deal.
Barry Cowen echoed those comments but struck a more cautious tone, indicating he would need a lot to be convinced this is all worth it.
On the Fine Gael side, Simon Coveney appears to have cast some spell over his main rival for the leadership of the party, Leo Varadkar, who again watched on as the Cork minister did the honours in terms of speaking to the media.
Coveney’s repeated front of house roll ahead of Varadkar is being noted as significant by observers and has been much commented on around the narrow corridors of power in Leinster House.
Another man who is believed to hold leadership aspirations, Paschal Donohoe, relied on the phrase “constructive” to describe the talks. So constructive in fact that we may even have a Government before we hit the 100 day mark since the election.
But for all the hype early on, the progress was to be slow. So slow that yet another leadership contender, acting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it is unlikely we will have a vote for Taoiseach this week at all. Damn.
Hope had been building that it could all be wrapped up in time for a vote tomorrow but alas it appears not.
The two negotiating teams would both end up needing grub in the nearby Buswell’s Hotel at the end of the day. They could eat together, just not at the same table, it seems. Not yet anyway.
The pressure on those central players is real, as reflected by the opinion poll conducted by Amarach for the Claire Byrne show on RTÉ on Monday night.
The poll of more than 1,000 people from across the country revealed that more people would prefer a second election than the minority government. The margin between the two options is small — 45% to 42% — but significant none the less.
That tells me that many people don’t see this minority government arrangement as being tenable or sustainable.
It shows that the appalling vista of a second election is marginally more appealing than the spectre of a wobbly, jittery, sticky back plaster Government which could fall apart at any time.
While we got more commentary from leading Labour figures about not going into government, the bizarre silence from Joan Burton on the matter continued.
The rush to spin the willingness of the party by someone in Burton’s office over the weekend was roundly criticised by party members yesterday, who accepted Labour must go back into opposition and regroup.
The lack of a definitive statement from Labour helped to muddy the waters for Fine Gael who continued their talks with the Independent Alliance yesterday too. The members of the alliance met for 30 minutes in a meeting room in the Dáil after their chat with Fine Gael and some unhappy faces were seen leaving the room.
There had been an acceptance that the alliance were all but nailed down, but maybe more work needs to be done there.
One person who was being definitive was Katherine Zappone, who was happy to tell anyone who would listen about the eight terms she has agreed with Fine Gael.
Commitments on gender equality, diversity on schools, movement on the Eighth Amendment, homelessness, and disabled care were laid out in a statement.
Reaction among some of the rural TDs was swift and devastating. Mattie McGrath said of her deal: “More power to her, but it is a sad state of affairs. Kenny is a desperate man for power,” he told me.
“I won’t be dancing to any tune to that melody,” Mattie McGrath said ahead of a meeting of the Rural Five.
Just when we thought it was about to end, it seems there are miles to go before we sleep and miles to go before we sleep.
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