|Government Buildings, Merrion Street, Dublin.|
We are at the end of the beginning. More than two months have passed since the general election and a government now looks to be in the final stages of being formed. A Fine Gael minority administration was always the most likely outcome. The main surprise has been the length of time our politicians have taken to reach this point.
Fianna Fail, initially, displayed a collective arrogance in their refusal to enter government with Fine Gael. They obstinately stood their ground as Enda Kenny tried his best to coax them into his arms. Instead they rebuffed his advances and it became clear a grand coalition was not on the cards. Micheal Martin’s party has instead managed to force concessions from Fine Gael, thus weakening Mr Kenny’s hand. Fianna Fail have since agreed to give confidence and supply to a Fine Gael minority government provided the larger party can achieve sufficient backing among independent TD’s.
Having, more or less, satisfied the demands of Fianna Fail, the next task for Fine Gael negotiators was to get agreement with the independent deputies, to vote for Mr Kenny as Taoiseach. As I write talks have not yet concluded but the money is on a government being put together in the next few days.
The new ‘third force’ in Irish politics, Sinn Fein, are, meanwhile, content to stay out of government. The republicans feel they will magically rise in support, like yeast in an oven, with the voters and this will take them into a majority government on their own. But Gerry Adams and his followers won’t have it as easy as in Northern Ireland where they have been in government for a number of years now. In the Republic they cannot expect the same levels of popularity. However they will no doubt serve in government in the future, once Mr Adams has left the scene.
We have examined the events leading up to the present situation. What of the next three or more years? Mr Kenny has been accused of arrogance by some, particularly over his stewardship of the previous government. For this next period in office he will, however, have to be a lot less strident. His room for manoeuvre has been seriously restricted as a result of February’s general election and arrogance will not be tolerated by the independent deputies sitting around the cabinet table.
The new arrangement will, more than likely, cause great frustration to the Fine Gael leader and his senior colleagues. They will have to move more slowly and spend more time negotiating policy differences. That is the price to be paid for perceived political arrogance and we will all be the better for that. After the circus of the last couple of months it now seems that, at last, the dust has settled. The Irish people are about to get a government and there’s plenty of work for that government to do. The time for talking is over and the time for action is nigh.