Fintan O’Toole: The new Government will be far more radical than it intends to be

The task it faces is, in its scale, something like the nation-building of a century ago

Big job: Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Big job: Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Usually, a new government is a process of subtraction. Take all the good stuff in the programme for government, subtract the large amount of it that just won’t happen, and what remains is the reality. But this time, it’s about addition, or even multiplication. The new administration will be far more radical than it consciously intends to be. The Greens probably have some grasp of this truth. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael almost certainly don’t. The success or failure of the Government will be determined by how quickly they realise just how bold they will be forced to be.

The word “historic” has been showered like confetti on the marriage of the two Civil War parties. To which the sensible response is “Yes, but so what?” The history in question already seems ancient. Vladimir Lenin said: “There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen”. In terms of the fundamental structure of Irish politics, we have had decade after decade where nothing happened. But in the 20 weeks between the general election of February 8th and the formation of the government on June 27th, decades have happened.

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