Doing a Deal for a New Coalition
Deaglán de Bréadún
As we await the conclusion of the Fine Gael-Labour talks, a group of anti-coalition Labour activists have held a press conference to declare their opposition to the deal in advance. But the prospects of any reasonable-looking agreement being rejected by a Labour special conference are very remote indeed.
Approximately the last ten days of the Labour campaign were dominated by the message that, If you don’t vote for us you are going to get single-party, unrestrained Fine Gael government.
Instead of doing a Michael McDowell and shinning up a lamppost in Ranelagh with a poster, Labour opted for Tesco-style ads warning of the implications for ordinary voters if FG had Merrion Street all to itself.
Prominent trade union leaders also spoke up and, although this annoyed elements of the middle class who had no intention of voting Labour in the first place, the union intervention probably activated public sector workers in particular to make a point of going to the polling-booth on 25 February.
The Labour dissidents are concerned that the smaller party will be used as a mudguard for what the anti-coalitionists would consider hard-right Fine Gael policies. Since FG has never been in power on its own, it is hard to assess what kind of fist the party would make of government in those circumstances.
It is probable that the Programme for Government we are expecting to emerge from the talks will be endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Labour delegates on Sunday, or whenever the conference takes place.
Thinking a year ahead, it would be a minor – no, major -miracle if the incoming government were not significantly less popular than it is now. It seems unlikely voters believed life would be all that much better under Enda and Eamon but there was clearly a feeling that FF needed a good kicking for allowing the crisis to develop to such a toxic extent on its watch.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is becoming the strict schoolmarm of Irish popular culture. Is there a cultural difference here, with “thrifty” Teutons seeking to restrain “feckless” Celts and Latins?
No surprise to hear the make-up of the Cabinet is being left to the two party leaders. It’s not something that could be decided between the negotiating teams since they have such a personal interest in the matter!
Meanwhile Colonel Gaddafy hangs on in Libya, where teenagers and young adults have risked, and in many cases lost, their lives seeking an end to his regime. The shape of the future in the region remains unclear but the masses have arrived on the historical stage and they aren’t leaving anytime soon.
It brings home the extent to which we take democracy for granted here in Ireland and elsewhere and how fortunate we are to live in a society where differences can be thrashed out and to a greater or lesser extent accommodated in a peaceful manner.