DANIEL MCCONNELL: Divided Dáil: Just eight days to avoid second election

Leaders finally meet as public’s patience is tested to the limit, writes Daniel McConnell

So, they both had been defeated in their bids to become taoiseach, as expected.

Everyone around Leinster House then waited to hear of the meeting between Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin which was pencilled in for 7pm last night.

But there was a problem.

Micheál had not been asked to a meeting. 4pm came and no call. 5pm came and no call. 6pm and no call. Things began to get edgy. Fianna Fáilers were getting annoyed and were moaning in the corridors of deferred power that such a delay was hardly conducive to a government being formed.

Someone asked Micheál in the corridor outside the Dail chamber had he checked his phone. He realised he had left it in his chair. A quick scramble ensued.

Throughout the day, speculation was rife as to where the meeting would be held. Some felt a neutral venue would be required. Would we see a Shelbourne Settlement or a Doheny’s Declaration were the questions being posed by irritable journalists.

It was eventually agreed that they would meet at 8.30pm in a room off the ministerial corridor and not the Taoiseach’s office in Government Buildings.

The meeting of the two leaders took place against the backdrop of a shambolic day of petty political posturing and game playing in the Dáil, kicked off by Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald.

The proceedings in the Dáil were delayed by up to an hour by a procession of TDs seeking to grandstand on issues like homelessness, Nama, the Panama files, and other so-called urgent issues.

It took an intervention from the Waterford TD John Halligan to point out nothing could be done about any of those issues until a government had been formed.

While a Taoiseach was never going to be elected yesterday, the fact that Kenny and Martin managed not to advance their positions one iota spoke volumes of the sham process we have had to endure in recent days and weeks.

The public’s patience has been tested to breaking point and the two leaders have eight days to avoid a second election, because, genuinely, they cannot justify another round of stalemate in terms of voting for a taoiseach.

Micheál Martin
Micheál Martin

After last night’s first meet and greet, Martin and his party gather this morning to debate the merits of what to do next. The reality of their dilemma is beginning to dawn. They essentially have to concede to doing a deal with Kenny, and perhaps re-elect him as taoiseach, or cause a second election.

Divisions on Irish Water, health and countless other issues could easily be overcome, but there is genuine animosity and bitterness between the two leaders. That animosity is shared among the two camps around the leaders and, even if a deal was to be stitched together, it is a bound to be turbulent.

There has also been a noticeable shift towards the idea of a second election.

As I write, in the background the Super Furry Animals song The man don’t give a fuck is playing. Seems about right.


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