Grumblings over style of leadership do not constitute a challenge to Martin
Opinion: O’Rourke’s notion of a ‘grand coalition’ has little reality in short term
The fact that the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party voted two-thirds against the legislation and one-third for it has also had no impact.
The Fianna Fáil figure in this Red C poll, at 22 per cent, is shy of where they were a year or so ago. August polls in the mid-point of the life of the Dáil must be read with additional caution. It will be much more important to see if there is any real movement in the polls later this year after the budget.
As long as he can hold the party at above 20 per cent and has a good local and European elections, Martin’s position as leader will continue to be safe. After that, the fate of his party and its prospects of being back in government any time soon will depend on the state of the economy and the performance of the Government, rather than anything that Martin or Fianna Fáil can do.
In this context it is not clear what to make of Mary O’Rourke’s call this week for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to give serious consideration to going into government with each other. O’Rourke herself spoke of how her suggestion was open to being dismissed as the summer school musings of a former politician. However she grounded her argument well within in her own family heritage on both sides of the Civil War and in the context of the political accommodations that have been necessary in Northern Ireland.
There has been no official Fianna Fáil reaction to what O’ Rourke had to say. The Fine Gael response has been mixed. Minister Leo Varadkar rejected the idea in trenchant tribal terms. On the other hand, junior minister Ciarán Cannon, himself a relative newcomer to Fine Gael, tweeted agreement with O’Rourke and spoke of how “a new generation of politicians can set aside divisions formed 100 years ago which don’t reflect current challenges”.
It will be interesting to see the more medium-term Fine Gael reaction to the idea of a grand coalition of the two largest parties. There is little reality to such a coalition actually happening after the next election, but leaving the notion hanging in the air serves some political purposes. It reminds Labour that Fine Gael may have other options. Fianna Fáil is helped by the fact that the concept of them being in government soon, in any configuration, is being discussed at all. It may also help to dispel the notion that if it had to, Fianna Fáil would go into government with Sinn Féin before Fine Gael.