Chemistry first, compromise second
You can never separate politics from the personal.
The first principle of coalition cohabitation is that the principals can stand the sight of each other.
If there is mistrust, or antipathy or mutual suspicion, you can forget about it.
The precedent? Albert Reynolds and Des O’Malley.
Another precedent? Albert Reynolds and Dick Spring.
Was the problem an Albert problem? Maybe. He took over from Haughey and the Coalition with the PDs was immediately wobbling precariously. There were issues between them over the Beef Tribunal that were unresolved and unresolvable.
It started off well with Spring but over time deteriorated into an intense dislike. Fianna Fail were in a coalition by sufferance; so too were Labour, because the numbers on the other side didn’t stack up. Arguably (at that time, anyway) Fianna Fail was a more compatible mix for the Labour, if you looked at it from a purely (impersonal) political and ideological perspective.
Knowing both Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore, I am sure that both will get on very well. They signed no Mullingar Accord together but I warrant that their partnership will be as close and compatible as that of Bertie Ahern and Mary Harney from 1997 onwards.
There’s going to be a lot of brinkmanship, horse-trading, ultimatum posturing etc (pick your cliche) on policy and Cabinet composition.
And I suspect that we will get at least one grubbly little arrangement (an extra super junior or a new extra-ministerial role) to accommodate all those in both parties clamouring for position. I’d also say there will be a row over the Finance portfolio.
And Gilmore for Taoiseach? Don’t even go there. Labour will give that one a quiet burial.
What will be more interesting is to see how the opposition comports itself. Fianna Fail wil be the main Opposition party but Micheal Martin will struggle to get heard above a cacophony of indignation, anger and bluster.
He’s going to find it hard to rebuild his party. He’s got a smattering of bright and ambitious TDs but a few others destined for only the backbenches. The lack of female TDs is also not good.
Mary Minihan has a story this morning on Martin pushing for a clearing out of lifers from the Seanad. He has to do that.
A lot of people have been going on about Fianna Fail having no future. Reel back eight years and they said the same about Fine Gael. Politics has changed. The two big parties cannot depend on automatic dominance any more and their fortunes will wax and wane. It’s true that Fianna Fail has taken a terrible battering (and deservedly so). Martin needs for the party to rediscover its founding spirit and then adapt it to suit the times. The first thing he will need to sever is its connections with developers – since the 1960s they have poisoned and contaminated the party.
But you write off Fianna Fail like you write off Darth Vader – within a decade be sure the empire will strike back.
Greens. Doomed in the short term. Need to rebuild in the locals in 2014 and then hope to get one or two TDs in the Dail in five years time. It’s going to take a long time for the party to re-emerge and then only as party of opposition – a conscientious objecter.
Sinn Fein. Some of their smartest and brightest people are now in the Dail. Their policies are so cynical and superficial, though. It’s about time that Sinn Fein started getting real down south and matching the obvious talent at its disposal with real substance.
The rest? What a collection. Eclectic. Lively. Inconsistent. We are going to get a lot of noise (think 140 decibels) and it will be entertaining. But will so many independents from such a diverse background be capable of delivering coherent messages of opposition – be it from the left or the right?
I’m pressed for time so I’ll reach for another easy cliche – the jury is out on that one.