AS another week comes to an end without the formation of a government it is hard not to think that a great opportunity has been lost for the crassest of reasons.
A grand coalition between the two major parties of the centre is still, no matter how you winnow the wheat from the chaff, the most logical, promising construct.
Such a partnership, one that so offends Fianna Fáil’s idea of itself and its ultimate ambitions, would have the capacity and, most importantly, the clout to take on the pressing challenges building up each and every day for the next government. A lost opportunity indeed — but hardly, hopefully forever.
Despite that toxic, anachronistic tribalism it seems we are approaching an endgame — or an election. Detailed negotiations will take place over the coming days to see if a minority Fine Gael government with support from Fianna Fáil can be established by the end of next week.
How Fianna Fáil can support that arrangement but abhor the idea of a coalition will, undoubtedly, enliven many a late night summer school debate — especially as it would facilitate the re-election of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, a prospect the fills so many outside, and some inside, Fine Gael with dismay.
For the moment those are side issues that can be shelved until the primary objective is realised.
The focus must be on what can be achieved and what might need to be reviewed to facilitate the establishment of a stable government that might last for a number of years and pursue objectives, even if they are unpopular, without looking over its shoulder.
This process will require a generosity of spirit and a level of trust that would indeed be novel in the often bitter, vengeful relationship dividing the Dáil’s two biggest parties. The commitment required would be as much psychological and emotional as political.
The leopards would have to change their green or blue spots; the strident bruisers will have to learn to bite their lips and keep an eye on the bigger picture and the consequences of scuttling a minority administration — an early election.
They would, like partners in any successful relationship, have to learn to trust each other no matter how difficult that might seem. There will be a moment, many moments really, when the opportunity to topple a minority government aligns with Fianna Fáíl’s eternal objective of returning to power.
That is why a written agreement, one that must be published, seems prudent.
Maintaining this relationship is one of the tasks facing the Dáil if it is to achieve the relevance that defines an admirable parliament.
There has been a lot of talk, even by those who were in a position to implement change, about re-engineering the workings of Leinster House to try to replace something approaching autocracy with a more collegiate way of doing things.
This is a noble ambition almost worn threadbare by repetition and lip service. Maybe this time? At the start of this process it was described as a chance for the political classes to redeem themselves.
That opportunity still exists even if on a reduced scale but one thing is certain — Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will achieve far more for the country by working together than by renewing their age-old enmity.
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