By Red Hugh
The negotiations for the formation of a new government are a bit like Lannigan’s Ball – people stepping in and stepping out all over the place. It’s hard to keep track.
At the start it was all about that powerful new grouping, the independents. They got love bombed by Fine Gael in a brazen, shameless way.
When that didn’t make any headway Enda’s lads changed tack and offered to make an honest man of Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin in what would have been the biggest political shotgun wedding since the foundation of the state.
Unfortunately, like a spurned bride at the altar of government, Micheal was having none of it and walked hurriedly away.
Over the weekend there was another twist when Gerry Adams said Sinn Fein was willing to talk to both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. Clever or what?
It’s a nothing to lose move by Sinn Fein. Adams knows Fine Gael will never do business with them – hardline republicans and west Brit supporters in government together, ain’t going to happen – while Fianna Fail, who see the rise of Sinn Fein as a major threat to their own interests, will do their own calculus and find numerous reasons to avoid coalition with the bearded one. But in the event of another election Gerry, always the strategist, can say ‘we tried’.
What’s poisoning the well in the current negotiations is Irish Water. Having invested so much political capital in it and losing so many seats because of it’s unpopularity – Labour down 30, Fine Gael 26 – it would seem the outgoing government is determined to get something for all that pain, even if it causes them more pain. [You would swear they would need some sort of counselling to let it go.]
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail says Irish Water, if you’ll pardon the pun, is dead in the water; that 70% of those elected to the new Dail did so on a platform of abolishing water charges. But the FF’s have, as they always do, left themselves wriggle room: are they scrapping the charges or merely looking to suspend them?
Over the weekend Sligo TD, Marc McSharry told RTE it was the latter despite some others in the party stating that the went into the election seeking the abolition of the whole Irish Water system.
There are, of course, other big issues out there that also need addressing. There are almost half a million people on hospital waiting lists across the country and there has been an almost 100 per cent increase in people on trolleys since 2008.
Just listen to the news and it’s clear homelessness is now epidemic. And across the country family farms and homes are being taken over by bailiffs acting on behalf of vulture funds.
So now we are down to a Hobson’s choice situation – it’s either a Fine Gael minority government or another election. There doesn’t seem much appetite for another election but, by the same token, there doesn’t seem much appetite for compromise either.
If I had to put a tenner on with Paddy Power in the morning I would bet on a government of some kind being cobbled together but with my track record at the bookies that would be of little comfort to anyone looking for a quick earner.