THE occasional South American despot who holidays in Skibbereen would not have been impressed by efforts to present as a sort of government that mingle-mangle of politicos currently ensconced in Dáil Éireann. He’d have had ‘em shot!
Nonetheless, after the general election last February, the despot would have been impressed by the skill with which our politicos were able to ‘hang in there’ while the public esteem, in which they once were held, plummeted.
Sinn Féin emerged from the election with the most first preferences and 37 seats. Mickey Martin’s Fianna Fáil won 38 seats while Fine Gael (the government party) got 35 seats. It was an embarrassment for the two conservative parties (FF and FG) to have the riff-raff (SF) as next door neighbours, but worse was to follow.
As far as the plain people of Ireland (26 counties) were concerned, a coalition arrangement with Sinn Féin (involving Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael) was the path to the future.
Sadly neither Varadkar nor Mickey had any intention of power-sharing with SF. Their response was to attach clothes pegs to the nostrils, making it clear that under no circumstances would they have anything to do with a malodorous gang of rowdies who would be better off as rat catchers in Siberia.
And, instead of negotiating a joint programme for sharing power, which would have been in the country’s best interest, a plan was concocted to keep the Republicans in their box and far away from government.
In other words, despite the general election drop in the combined vote-share of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the two conservative parties arbitrarily decided that SF was not fit for government and that the establishment’s shocking, apartheid policy towards the party would continue.
Ignored was the fact that Sinn Féin now represents a quarter of the electorate and that in Dublin West they beat Vlad into second place while Republicans also topped the poll in Cork South Central, ahead of FF’s conservative leader, Mickey Martin.
In a properly functioning democracy, even a ramshackle party like Fianna Fáil would have gone back to its roots and sought the members’ advice as to whether co-operation/coalition with Sinn Féin was a good idea or not.
Instead Fianna Fáil warned that too close a relationship with Sinn Féin would divide the party ‘from top to bottom’! Which said something about party solidarity!
Instead, Mickey Martin declared he was prepared to go into government with the nice Fine Gael people because a government involving Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would represent ‘change’.
When asked for an explanation as to what he meant by ‘change’, Martin answered somewhat cryptically: ‘The fundamental change would be in delivery,’ he said. No one had a clue as to what he meant which, of course, added salt to his most amusing of wisecracks! Oh yeah!
Nevertheless, the palsy-walsy relationship between the two parties continued to grow. Two weeks ago, after a new poll indicated that support for Fianna Fáil was gurgling down the S-bend, Martin signed a draft agreement for a Programme for Government which ensured that a government would be formed and that the rotation of the office of Taoiseach would be shared between himself and Fine Gael’s Dr Vlad.
No consultation with the plebs took place, even though an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll indicated that support for Martin’s party was down to a dismal 14% and that less than 33% of the voting public wanted another general election.
But, as in the case of WW1 generals who ignored the warning signs of impending doom, the official Fianna Fáil brain mechanism decided to by-pass the collective intelligence of the ordinary Joe Soaps, politicos, supporters and journos, who kept the show on the road.
The result was a Programme for Government involving FF, FG and the Greenies, under which all three parties would enter government under the Programme for Government.
Thus, last week Martin became Taoiseach (unelected), with Vlad to get his claws on the job in December 2022.
It was the most charming and uncomplicated way of forming a government and sure to impress visiting South American despots on their occasional visits to Skibbereen!
What’s more, we Joe Soaps noticed that the four key departments – Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Jobs ¬– all fell within the remit of Fine Gael. The fact that Fianna Fáil did not get a sniff of even one of the prestigious ministries suggested that the Soldiers of Destiny were considered not up to the task, or not to be trusted!
Mickey, however, did not complain. Perhaps he was busy concentrating on the responsibility of his six-months-duration Taoiseach job – which in a Labour Exchange would be classified as ‘casual labour’!
Indeed, Fianna Fáil should be complimented on its new-found tolerance, magnanimity and charity, all of which prompted a benign Michael McGrath to observe that there now existed within FF a ‘respectful debate’ about the party’s future.
‘Respectful!’ When was the last time a politico used such a word? (It suggests deference subservience and knowing one’s place!)
McGrath told the nation that the language of civil war politics now was part of history and ‘policies’ would determine how people voted.
On a Morning Ireland programme McGrath said that coalition was a ‘huge, historic step’ and was ‘an outstanding opportunity for Fianna Fáil to secure its identity as a political party’. Or did he mean to survive politically for a few more years as a domestic help to Fine Gael?
Oh, and spare a thought for the sharp political insight of Greenie councillor Lorna Bogue who pointed out that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sent a document regarding the formation of a government to every party except Sinn Féin which, in effect, ‘excluded the party from the government formation process’.
She warned that Sinn Féin was in line for an ‘absolutely massive majority’ in the next Dáil if the party were ‘effectively excluded from the government formation process’. She said the process ‘had been about making Micheál Martin Taoiseach’ and she was ‘flabbergasted’ that SF had not been involved in the negotiations.
Her comments were picked up by RTE and put to the Veggies’ Great Leader, Eamon Ryan.
The following day Ms Bogue got an email from the Greenie HQ telling her that her membership status had been changed in relation to two national media appearances. She was suspended!
Which reminds us the old adage that at no time is freedom of speech more precious than when a person hits his/her thumb with a hammer, although in Ms Bogue’s case she might like to substitute Eamon Ryan for that thumb!
Ah yes! One can always get a laugh out of the Greenies!