Fintan O’Toole: FF and FG have produced a colouring book for adults

Post-coronavirus era will demand a radicalism the old parties are not trained for

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a visit to the Civil Defence Dublin Branch to receive a briefing on its contribution to the Covid-19 response. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a visit to the Civil Defence Dublin Branch to receive a briefing on its contribution to the Covid-19 response. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

There has been a trend for colouring books for adults. Perhaps this was the inspiration for the self-declared “historic” coalition plan published by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael last week. After many weeks of intensive labour, they issued a colouring book – 24 pages of idyllic scenes drawn in rough outline. They then passed the crayons to the Greens, the Social Democrats and the Labour Party: please colour in these pictures. A bit of green here? Perhaps some red on the fringes? Lots of pink. Whatever you like – so long as the tax stuff stays nice and blue. And do be sure to keep within the lines of familiar orthodoxy.

We live in surreal times, so maybe the strangeness of this gesture is to be expected. But that does not make the moment any less weird. The flimsiness of the document is essentially an admission that the two parties that between them have led every government in the history of the State are lost for words. They are tongue-tied because they are also lost for ideas. There is an intellectual vacuum in the centre of Irish politics. The dilemma for the smaller parties is to figure out whether they are being offered a golden opportunity to fill a hole or are being beckoned into a swamp.

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