Tenacity paying off for Taoiseach - Government formation talks

Bertie Ahern enjoyed a reputation as the Teflon Taoiseach, because scandals appeared to slide off him without causing any real damage to his standing with the electorate.

Enda Kenny has not been so lucky. Every scandal, mishap, or mistake of note during his tenure — from the health service to Irish Water — has stuck like Velcro to him, yet, through it all, he has remained tough, resolute, and resourceful, exhibiting, above all, tenacity.

Perhaps it is better to be the Tenacious Taoiseach, because the trouble with Teflon is that nothing sticks — not even the good stuff.

This explains why Bertie is now all-but-forgotten in the wilderness, while Enda, despite his awkward and bumbling ways, remains the most powerful politician in Ireland.

The Taoiseach’s tenacity has been tested over the past few weeks, during negotiations with Fianna Fáil about the formation of a new government. It is about to be tested even further today, as formal talks begin with Independent TDs, who will ultimately decide the shape of Irish politics for the next two to three years, at least.

Fine Gael’s agreement with Fianna Fáil to form a minority government must now be accompanied by guarantees of support from at least eight Independent TDs. In recent days, there have been detailed discussions between Fine Gael and 14 Independents — six from the Independent Alliance group — who will determine if Enda Kenny is re-elected Taoiseach.

Many Independent TDs have already come with their shopping list, ranging from the health service to rural broadband to, of course, Irish Water.

As part of whatever deal is struck, it is widely expected that, if re-elected, Enda Kenny will allocate three or four Cabinet seats to Independents, as well as a number of junior ministerial positions.

This would be a new departure for Irish politics and would be a truly historic change in the way the Dáil is run. While non-governing party members have held ministerial posts before, they have never done so on the scale now anticipated.

It would also be an astute move by Fine Gael. Giving even a limited number of Independents ministerial posts would force them to act prudently, and reasonably, in the national interest. They would also share in collective Cabinet responsibility for whatever decisions are taken by government, even ones they might have argued against in the past.

Even outside the Cabinet table, Independents are likely to be far more influential than ever before, with greater access to ministers and senior civil servants and with a real say in legislation.

The days of the Guillotine Bill being rail-roaded through the Dáil are over, and that is no bad thing.

In return, those Independents, both inside and outside the Cabinet, must exhibit a greater sense of responsibility than they have of late. That means putting the country before either personal, local, or factional interests.

The days of Independent TDs acting like glorified county councillors are also over — and that is no bad thing, either.


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