Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The Dáil returns on June 14. We will have a Government then, one that you can confidently say will be Fianna Fail led, will also be Bertie Ahern led.

Right now, we are stuck in the political version of a holding pattern over Heathrow Airport. There is some movement but it is circular. The Labour Party parliamentary party is meeting today. The residue of a party once known as the PDs is meeting also.

Fine Gael have been busily selling the line that the FF win wasn't really that much of a FF win and that FG were the real winners, so much so that they might surprise us all and form the next government. To that end, Enda Kenny has met with just about ever entity that isn't FF or SF.

Even if he were to pull it off, and cobble together a government more complicated than the 1948 arrangement, it would be so precarious, so inherently unstable that it would hardly last a year. I think the current FG leadership is playing a longer game. On the one hand it's posturing a little, anticipating any leadership challenge, ensuring that Enda's leadership is a continuity one. The message: he's ready to step into the breech now and at any time as Taoiseach. Secondly, they are planting the notion in people's minds that if a FF-led coalition collapses, then it might not be necessary to go to the country.

Having said that, FF have the chips stacked on their side of the table. For once, I don't think we have to take a Machiavellian reading of Bertie Ahern's intentions. He wants the PDs and the independents first, and then the greens. The problem with the first constellation is question marks over Beverly Flynn €1.5 million debt to RTE. The majority will be wafer-thin - and it would be difficult for the government to last the course. I think the upper echelons of the FF leadership are not too gone on the Greens either - and it goes beyond its concerns about so-called flakey policies to the attacks that the Greens have made on FF's relationship with developers.

If there were an agreement with the Greens it might be more stable.

But looking at the numbers, you suspect that what FF might try for is a wider coalition involving FF, the two PDS, the six Greens, and one or two sympathetic independents.

FF and Labour? I just don't see it. Let's be real about this. Pat Rabbitte ruled it out. If there was wiggle room in what he has said in the past six months, its so infinitesimally small as to be negligent.

Fintan O'Toole's column in the Irish Times yesterday made a cogent argument for this set-up, saying it would guarantee both ten years of Government, could see the successors of Pearse and Connolly ruling the country at the time of the 100th anniversary of 1916. It makes sense for a Brian Cowen led FF. The problem with the thesis is that it's not a Brian Cowen led FF and won't be for at least another two and a half years.

And the Tribunals. It will cause Ahern trouble. Not now. None of his opponents have any appetite to take FF on for a third time over BertieGate. Ahern has already scored two emphatic victories over this. But the patterns in politics often mirror closely the patterns in sport - and yes, sport always provides a vivid dayglo metaphor for the human condition!. In championship fare, you often see teams demolish its opposition for three or four games in a row and then be set up as untouchable or as raging hot favourites. For all that, sometimes in the game that you least expect it, they put in an insipid performance and exit tamely. This might happen here. After the heroic seeing off of his detractors, the Taoiseach might be felled in the end by something small and seemingly insignificant - the piece of straw that will have broken the camel's back .


David Forsythe said...

I don't agree that Berie has seen anyone off. He's been expert at using stalling tactics, but you can't stall the law forever.

The truth is out there ... somewhere...

Harry McGee said...

I finish off my column tormorrow with that very thought. He said Celia lodged £30,000 sterling into the bank branch on December 5 1994. The bank records show only £1,900 in sterling was bought that day. There's a discrepancy there that will take some explaining.
We've gone past the period where the public decides his fate. It's in the hands of his potential partners in government. None of them feel particularly strong enough to face down FF over this one though.