CONGRATS to the little rascals in Fine Gael and to Fianna Fáil’s Mickey Martin who believe that, between them, they can form an administration consisting of Bertie Wooster-style Blueshirts and rustic Soldiers of Destiny.
Which raises this question: can punters take seriously Fianna Fáil’s governmental aspirations when little precise knowledge is available as to that party’s agenda for government?
Mind you, we’d be sad if things fell apart for Mickey and Fianna Fáil – which raises this hypothetical question: would FF politicos be able to find gainful employment outside the world of politics? (Probably not, although the carnivorous reptile section in Fota Wildlife Park might be an option!)
Mickey, for instance, after serving a stint at Pearse Leahy’s educational academy on Camden Quay, Cork, has devoted his entire life to politics and never looked back. He’s now at the point of sharing government with Vlad, despite mutterings from a mischievous crew concerning his captaincy of the Good Ship Fianna Fáil. They complain he’s left it drift and they don’t want his fate to resemble that of Captain Bligh!
That aside, and although the possibility of real power is dangling ever closer, the fickle fingers of fate that may yet cast him into an ocean of political oblivion and … (‘Excuse me, enough of the nautical imagery; you’ll sink us all!’ – Ed).
And here’s the rub. Although advocating a grubby coalition with the Blueshirts is quite a daring thing to do and makes sense among politically-ambitious punters, it’s a different kettle of fish for rank and file supporters whose task it is to knock on doors, deliver leaflets and implore people to vote for the pals.
It’s certain Mickey will alienate many of those loyal FF workers, the ordinary decent canvassers although, to their credit, criticism of his intentions has yet to become nasty, or even vocal.
Yet they’re aghast at the thought that the party’s immortal soul – its emotional and political energy, its inspiration and commitment – is in danger of damnation through the closeness of relations with Fine Gael.
As far as they’re concerned, the priority of the party should be a return to basics: to get into government at all costs and, once in, to keep the others out ! That’s what politics is all about!
Sadly, according to these loyal foot-soldiers, there’s confusion over what Mickey means in his references to lofty ‘aims and principles.’ Nor does his detestation of Sinn Féin make sense. After all, they say, Fianna Fáil is part of the republican family, with goals and aspirations similar to those of Mary Lou’s lot.
And then, there’s this: Mickey told the nation last week that his negotiating team, ‘which is made up of the very best of Fianna Fáil brains,’ sees few problems, if any, in a coalition government with Fine Gael (a party that was never slow to make the occasional foray into right-wing ideology).
In a classic example of political chicanery, some of the content of the negotiating documents relating to coalition was leaked in the expectation that mosquito parties (Greenies and Labour) might see advantages in aligning themselves with Fianna Fáil. (‘Leftie’ commitment would be important in the event of having to get an 80-seat plus majority in order to form a government.)
And, for party consumption, he issued another document, a sort of ‘Plan,’ which was the outcome of the FF-FG talks (scholars in UCC humorously warn that the ‘Plan’ is similar to the 1977 Fianna Fáil manifesto from which the country did not recover for at least 15 years!).
The current ‘Plan’ focusses on ‘housing for all’, health, the economy, climate change, childcare, a ‘new green deal’, and something mysteriously titled ‘a shared island’.
To use a Cork idiom, it’s a sort of ‘whatever you’re having yourself, Mr Mackessy.’ Importantly, the banal, snake-oil contents are in keeping with Martin’s all-consuming ambitions to become Taoiseach of the greatest little country in the world!
In other words, his Enid Blyton version of a future government is designed to please everyone and can be altered and interpreted differently to everyone’s personal political satisfaction. And, it’s also an example of how Mickey & Crew can turn their faces to the future but can’t help walking backwards!
An equal share
The ‘special’ document was followed by a Mickey-statement in which he announced that FF and FG would have an equal share of cabinet seats. This created as much confusion as the impenetrable comment that the deal would be a ‘sensible arrangement of transparency, engagement and mutual respect’!
Meanwhile, Vlad Varadkar made clear, with much less bombast, that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would not be able to form a stable government without the assistance of three smaller parties, namely the Greenies, the so-called Social Democrats, and Labour (Gawd help us!).
In the meantime, an outfit called Cosmhuinter Fianna Fáil appealed to TDs ‘with a cry from the heart’ for a National Emergency Government. They say that would be the best option when faced with the reality of coalition with Fine Gael.
Motivating the group is the poor performance of Fianna Fáil under Mickey amid assertions that a coalition would have just one outcome for the party: disaster!
But the cruellest cut of all was the group’s assessment that Fianna Fáil seemed ‘to stand for nothing’ and that the party’s ‘identity’ had been abandoned a long time ago.
It also emphasised that a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition was not what the people voted for and that ‘FF would be the ultimate losers’ if such a thing came to pass.
And in a comment unique for its sharpness, the dissidents asserted that Mickey’s refusal to acknowledge that 17 of his party’s 38 TD were open to discussion with Sinn Féin had split Fianna Fáil!
In the meantime, an interesting prospect looms. Both Mickey and Vlad realise that their two parties would be vulnerable without having a small party helping to make up the numbers. Consequently, they’re considering inviting the ‘Regional Independent Group’ (nine non-aligned TDs) into government!
Fianna Fáil has 37 TDs, Fine Gael 35, giving them a total of 72. The Regional Group would bring their numbers to 81 and thus provide a slim majority for a FG-dominated government.
Problem is that the leader of the Regional Independent Group is none other than the illustrious former Fine Gael Minister, Michael Lowry. (See Wikipedia for an account of his stellar and distinguished political career!)
Proudly, Lowry announced to anyone willing to listen that he would be ready to ‘stand up and be counted in the national interest!’
And at that, we felt a bit nauseous (Must have been something fishy you ate – Ed).