Following a good general election campaign, led by a resurgent Micheál Martin, the Fianna Fáil party will be facing a conundrum that could make or break it as the distinct entity it wishes to remain relative to Fine Gael. Government stability is needed and serious moral pressure is being put on Fianna Fáil to either go into coalition with the old enemy or to back a minority Fine Gael-led government.
Both parties promised that they would not coalesce with one another, but the national interest demands that they come to some sort of arrangement. Apart from the parties’ most diehard supporters, who want to maintain their now outmoded distinct tribal identity, members of the public would have no problem with the two breaking these promises as their policies are almost identical and the era of Civil War politics is well and truly over.
It is easy to understand why Fianna Fáil would still have difficulty forming an association with Fine Gael if they are entering it as the junior partner. They would risk losing their distinct identity – one that has been rehabilitated somewhat, and with considerable difficulty, under the stewardship of Micheál Martin during the 2016 general election campaign and is still a work in progress to bring the party back to the levels of influence it enjoyed for so long until the Celtic Tiger era went from boom to bust.
The stint in opposition has helped and, if they are browbeaten into supporting a Fine Gael-led government, the prime opposition party platform will be taken over by Fianna Fáil’s nemesis, Sinn Féin. Micheál Martin is truly between a rock and a hard place as he wrestles with what to do about this.
In the past, Fianna Fáil often put the party before the country. In the current instance, the country needs to come first, as must be the case for Fine Gael also.